CSK strangle KXIP at the death for fourth win

Chennai Super Kings outfoxed yet another opposition on a slow turner at home as Kings XI Punjab fell 22 runs short in chase of 160, which they appeared in control for a long period. The KL Rahul-Sarfaraz Khan stand was, at first, game-reviving, but the pair’s inability to find the next gear towards the end brought about KXIP’s downfall eventually.

For a majority of the partnership it felt like CSK might end up falling short because of Dwayne Bravo’s absence, but Dhoni trusted his Lungi Ngidi replacement – Scott Kuggeleijn – to bounce back from a very off-colour start. The New Zealander obliged, followed instructions to the T, and left KXIP on the wrong side of the result.

First look of Faf in 2019

The South African finally got a chance to lose that green bib he’s been spotted in throughout, and nudge Ambati Rayudu back to a middle-order spot. He opened the batting with Shane Watson and impressed straightaway on another slow turner at the Chepauk, this time in the scorching 4 pm heat. Ravichandran Ashwin made a surprising call of leaving out Mujeeb Ur Rahman, and his team ended up conceding 54 in the PowerPlay overs, during which there was just one over of spin. Andrew Tye, who took Mujeeb’s spot, went for 18 in his first over, showing clearly that this was a strip for the spinners to chokehold a batting line-up. Du Plessis’s return also gave CSK their best opening partnership of the season – 54 – and set the platform for what would follow through the middle-overs.

Du Plessis’s batting through middle made a bigger impact for what was to follow, as he took on the Ashwins, smartly playing a lot straighter against the turning ball. A 38-ball 54 on such a surface was worth its weight in gold.

How was Ravichandran Ashwin’s homecoming?

Impressive and full of variations.

The KXIP skipper unfurled carrom balls at will and at one point even bowled with a low-arm Kedar Jadhav-like bowling action to try and deceive Suresh Raina. He mixed that up with an attempt at bowling seam ups too, and put the brakes on CSK in the middle with a fine spell. It was one of his many attempts at his favourite variation that ended Du Plessis’s innings as the South African holed out to David Miller at long on. Suresh Raina’s odd decision making on just the next ball gave Ashwin a shot at picking a hat-trick as the CSK No.3 swung blindly and missed a regulation off spinner that crashed onto the stumps.

How did CSK get to 160?

At one stage, KXIP looked set to keep CSK down to a sub-150 total, as MS Dhoni and Ambati Rayudu struggled to get the scorecard ticking. But Dhoni went from 6 off 11 in 17 overs to 37 off 23 in 20, as Tye, Sam Curran and Mohammed Shami struggled with their lengths against the CSK skipper.

Was 160 enough?

It looked competitive at the half-way stage, and even a few overs into the chase when Harbhajan Singh dismissed Chris Gayle for the fifth time in T20s and Mayank Agarwal, playing a tame loft to long on. But KL Rahul and Sarfaraz Khan picked up the pieces and put them together against CSK’s spin barrage.

The game moved along slowly and CSK still held the aces, until MS Dhoni had to introduce Scott Kuggeleijn. The New Zealander bowled too full in his first over, and got hit for 16 runs, putting Dhoni in a spot of bother.

Even as the CSK spinners conceded just 61 in the 12 overs they bowled, Dhoni needed to get eight overs out of his two fast bowlers and also trust them to take care of the death overs. Kuggeleijn struggled across his first two overs, but a chat with Stephen Fleming in the timeout break helped him turn the game around on its head.

What did he do?

When he came back to bowl his third over, KXIP needed 46 off 18 balls and had two set batsmen with a partnership of 110 in the middle. A bit of a waiting game to tee off from the pair seemed risky but also calculative as Dhoni had to rely on the two quicks to do the finishing job. As Rahul geared up to whack fuller balls, Kuggeleijn dished out short and back-of-a-length cutters, getting him caught in the deep for a 47-ball 55. David Miller started with a four, but the equation came down only to 39 off 12.

Chahar nearly gave the game another 180 degrees turn with two successive waist-high no-balls, but Sarfaraz just couldn’t hit him out of the park in the over where he nailed his yorkers and mixed it up cleverly with fuller balls and slower bouncers. KXIP got 13 off the over, but Kuggeleijn bowled an exceptional final over, conceding just three runs and completing CSK’s 22-run win.

Where do the teams go next?

Chennai Super Kings have a couple of days break before they host the Andre Russell-fuelled Kolkata Knight Riders on April 9, while Kings XI Punjab make the long journey back home to Mohali for a home fixture against 2018 finalists SRH.

Brief Scores: Chennai Super Kings 160/3 in 20 overs (Faf du Plessis 54, MS Dhoni 37*; Ravichandran Ashwin 3-23) beat Kings XI Punjab 138/5 in 20 overs (Sarfaraz Khan 67, KL Rahul 55; Harbhajan Singh 2-17) by 22 runs

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