Maybe because of the ‘used pitch’ at the Wankhede Stadium, Punjab Kings went in with a more calculated batting approach led by the dependable Shikhar Dhawan, whose ninth half-century against Chennai Super Kings helped his side romp home by 11 runs, overcoming Ambati Rayudu’s single-handed effort.
Tottering at 40/3, Chennai needed the experience of Rayudu, whose 78 off 39 balls, comprising seven fours and six massive sixes, seemed to get the chase of 188 back on track. But it was the disciplined effort of the Punjab bowlers, especially Kagiso Rabada and comeback man Rishi Dhawan, that pulled the red and gold brigade back into the match.
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Rayudu’s arrival with a slight limp raised Chennai’s hopes of a turnaround. With the asking rate mounting to an excess of 11 an over, Rayudu’s clean hits infused life back into the Wankhede crowd that was more or less a sea of yellow. The right-hander looked in ominous touch, taking Rishi to the cleaners for a four and a six before dispatching Liam Livingstone over the midwicket fence for his second six.
He went on to bring up his half century by launching leg-spinner Rahul Chahar to the stands, before a hat-trick of sixes followed by a four against Sandeep Sharma almost turned the tide in Chennai’s favour, until Rabada struck in the 18th over with Rayudu’s wicket.
Earlier, Chennai were off to a forgettable start, losing Robin Uthappa (1) cheaply to Sandeep Sharma. The yellow brigade’s ploy of promoting Mitchell Santner to up the ante completely misfired, as the Kiwi wasted 15 deliveries for his 9 runs before Arshdeep Singh knocked off his leg stump with a length ball to reduce the opposition to 30/2.
Back into the IPL after five years, Himachal Pradesh’s Rishi Dhawan, turning up with a transparent face guard, made his comeback memorable by packing back Shivam Dube (8) to pile in more agony for the Chennai camp. Young Ruturaj Gaikwad showed glimpses of getting back to form with a 27-ball 30 before falling prey to Kagiso Rabada.
Skipper Ravindra Jadeja (21 not out) stood as a spectator to Rayudu’s brilliance, and his predecessor Mahendra Singh Dhoni (12) did try to pull off another spectacular win, but the target seemed too steep for the Chennai side.
Earlier, for most of the first 10 overs, Chennai succeeded in keeping Punjab batters under control and leaked only four boundaries and a couple of sixes. All Punjab needed was one big over to break the shackles, and who better than Dhawan to lead the counter attack.
At the other end was Sri Lankan Bhanuka Rajapaksa, replacing an off-colour Jonny Bairstow at No. 3. Dhawan targeted the young left-arm pacer Mukesh Choudhary, hitting him for three boundaries, before Rajapaksa took the aerial route against Dwaine Pretorius. The pair had a 110-run stand for the second wicket.
With the duo starting to explode after Dhawan had got to his fifty with a boundary off Pretorius, CSK’s old warhorse Dwayne Bravo eventually brought some relief with the wicket of Rajapaksa, whose 32-ball 42 was laced with a couple of fours and sixes. The left-handed pair, who had joined hands at the fall of skipper Mayank Agarwal (18) in the 6th over, provided the right impetus to the Punjab innings. Liam Livingstone then provided the finishing kick.