Mahendra Singh Dhoni gave a glimpse of the good old days of thrilling finishes but unheralded Rajasthan Royals’ seamer Sandeep Sharma nailed a couple of perfect block-hole deliveries to earn a three-run victory for his team over Chennai Super Kings in a close IPL encounter in Chennai on Wednesday (April 13).
Chasing a target of 176, Dhoni (32 off 17 balls) and Ravindra Jadeja (25 off 15 balls), veterans of many such tantalising finishes were on course as 21 was needed off the last over. CSK’s final score was 172 for 6 as Dhoni didn’t end his 200th game for CSK in a manner he would have liked in his spiritual home with 30,000 plus spectators rooting for him. Punjab seamer Sandeep, who played a couple of games for India eight years back, seemed to lose his nerve as he bowled a couple of wides and then Dhoni whipped him over square leg and mid-wicket for a couple of sixes.
Needing 6 off last two deliveries, the medium pacer got a wide yorker to Jadeja and then a perfect block-hole ball to Dhoni as it fetched a couple of singles. However, Devon Conway had a scratchy approach on tacky pitch as his 50 off 38 balls didn’t provide the momentum with Ravichandran Ashwin (2/25 in 4 overs) and YUzvendra Chahal (2/27 in 4 overs) bowling exceptionally well.
Earlier, Jos Buttler wasn’t exactly devastating in his approach, but yet managed the 18th half-century of his IPL career as Rajasthan Royals posted a decent 175 for 8 after being put into bat first. While Royals were 135 for 4 after 15 overs, the last five overs wasn’t as productive as they would have expected with only 40 runs being added and four wickets lost in the process. Ravindra Jadeja (2/21 in 4 overs) was as usual menacing on a surface that assisted the spinners even as Buttler hit three huge sixes in his 36-ball-52. He had a good 77-run second wicket stand with Devdutt Padikkal (38 off 26 balls), who after his struggles against Punjab Kings, was back in his element.
Towards the end, Shimron Hetmyer (30 off 18 balls) was ever impressive as a finisher while Tushar Deshpande (2/37) gave only eight runs in the 20th over. The CSK bowlers, especially Jadeja managed to peg back the Royals batters after the brisk start with the 50 coming in the 6th over. Royals did struggle between overs 8-13 as they lost two wickets in the space of three balls with Padikkal and skipper Sanju Samson (0) falling to Jadeja. The delivery that got Samson, was bowled with high arm speed and it did turn enough along with sufficient bounce to force the batter play a wrong line.
After a phase in which the Royals batters did not score any boundaries for a little over six overs, Ashwin (30, 22 balls, 1×4, 2×6) smacked two successive sixes off debutant left-arm pacer Akash Singh. He fell even as he was looking to step up the pace, skying one off Akash in the deep. After skipper MS Dhoni won the toss and opted to bowl, Deshpande struck an early blow for the home team, dismissing the dangerous Yashasvi Jaiswal (10, 8 balls, 2×4), having him caught by Shivam Dube.
Buttler and Padikkal (38, 26 balls, 5×4) add 77 runs in 41 deliveries before the latter fell to Ravindra Jadeja, caught in the deep by Devon Conway. The partnership laid the foundation for the Royals after Jaiswal was dismissed early.
Dhoni was felicitated prior to the match for captaining CSK for a 200th time in IPL by former BCCI president N Srinivasan in the presence of his wife Chitra Srinivasan and former TNCA president Rupa Gurunath.
Also read: IPL 2023: Dhoni gets ‘Thala 200’ memento ahead of CSK vs RR game (Video)
Commenting on captaining for the 200th time, Dhoni said he is not a big fan of on milestones. “How does it matter if it is 199 or 200. It is a compliment to play 200 games. Thanks to almighty. But as I said nothing special,” he said.
There were too many dot balls in middle overs: Dhoni
Speaking about his team’s loss, Dhoni attributed it to the lull period in the middle overs.
“There was not a lot in it for spinners, but in the middle period, there were too many dot balls. If the (ball) is stopping and turning off the surface, then it is fine. But that was not the case here,” Dhoni said at the post match presentation ceremony.
“We (him and Ravindra Jadeja) were the last batting pair, early in the tournament, you can’t go hard, keeping the NRR in mind as there were too many overs to go. We kept it slightly late in the middle overs. We could have taken more singles. And we couldn’t go hard immediately,” the former India captain said.
On hitting three big sixes, Dhoni said that he waited for the bowler to commit mistakes. “I don’t fancy too many things. I just wait for the bowlers to commit a few errors. The bowler was slightly under pressure in the last over. You need to back yourself. My strength is to look to hit straight.”
The skipper was also disappointed that his batters couldn’t cash in on the dew factor. “We saw the amount of dew, and after the first few overs, it became relatively easy. We should have done better with the bat. Overall, the bowlers did well.”