Rampaging Rahane powers CSK to top spot with dominant win over KKR
Rahane scored a blazing 71 off just deliveries against Kolkata Knight Riders. Photo: IPL 2023/Twitter

Rampaging Rahane powers CSK to top spot with dominant win over KKR

Ajinkya Rahane, whose T20 game has undergone complete metamorphosis, smashed an eye-popping 29-ball-71 as Chennai Super Kings (CSK), buoyed by support from capacity Eden Gardens’ crowd, out-batted Kolkata Knight Riders by 49 runs in an IPL game in Kolkata on Sunday (April 23).

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A transformed Rahane took Eden Gardens by storm with his sensational stroke-play which was complemented in equal measure by the muscular Shivam Dube (50 off 21 balls) and ever-consistent Devon Conway (56 off 40 balls) with CSK scoring an imposing 235 for 4 in 20 overs. With Jason Roy pulling a hamstring while fielding, the chase was out of question and Dhoni’s young pace troika of Akash Singh (1/29 in 4 overs),Matheesa Pathirana (1/27 in 4 overs) and Tushar Deshpande (2/43 in 4 overs) along with seasoned spinners Moeen Ali (1/20 in 1 over), Maheesh Theekshana (2/32 in 4 overs) and Ravindra Jadeja (1/34 in 3 overs) restricted KKR to 186 for 8 in 20 overs.

Jason Roy (61 off 26 balls) coming in at No.5 due to hamstring niggle, did try his bit with a 19-ball half-century but 236 even with best of batting line-ups would have been a tall-order.

The win took CSK to top of the table with 10 points from seven games while KKR are now placed eighth among 10 teams after fifth defeat at halfway stage.

To add insult to injury, KKR didn’t get any home support as the 67,000 capacity Eden stands resembled a Sunflower as Canary Yellow jersey filling up every corner of the venue. They had come for their beloved Mahendra Singh Dhoni’s ‘Last Dance’ and CSK didn’t disappoint them either. But for that credit goes to Rahane, who is surprising all and sundry each day with his positive intent. What is missing in KL Rahul is exactly what is there in Rahane but perhaps, the presence of Dhoni in that dug-out which is proving to be a clincher.

Also read: IPL 2023 | MS Dhoni: It’s the last phase of my career

Rahane 2.0

It was hard to fathom that the same Rahane had scored just 133 runs from seven matches at a strike rate of under 104 for KKR last season. But Rahane seemed to have got a new lease of life after getting under the leadership of talismanic Dhoni as he continued his rampaging form for CSK with second fifty of the season. Long perceived as a Test batter, the 34-year-old dished out some never-seen scoop shots, ruthless pulls laced with his signature drives, en route to his second fifty of the season. Overall, he smashed sixes fours and five sixes in his 29-ball knock that came with a 244-plus strike rate. His fifty came of just 24 balls.

His tournament strike-rate among specialist batters, who have faced a minimum of 100 balls, is just a shade below 190. In all, CSK batters hit 18 sixes, exposing the plight of KKR bowlers in-front of a crowd, which for them was like playing at “home away from home”.

On a day, the Eden immersed in a sea of yellow, KKR bowlers ran for covers with Kiwi opener Devon Conway once again leading the charge with a 40-ball-56, his fourth half-century of the season. Conway once again found a fine ally in Ruturaj Gaikwad (35; 20b) as the duo put together 73-run (45b) for the opening wicket, before Rahane unleashed his fury in his new avatar. There was a brief solace for KKR when the spin duo of Suyash Sharma and Varun Chakravarthy dismissed Conway and Gaikwad respectively in the space of 37 runs.

With CSK run-rate going under-nine an over, Shivam Dube (50; 21b, 2×4, 5×6) and Rahane seized the momentum with a 85-run partnership (32b). The duo hit four sixes, and a boundary in a row to step up the run rate. It was Dube who broke free against Varun Chakravarthy en route to his 20-ball fifty, his second too this season.

Also read: IPL 2023 | Under Bravo, youngsters will gain confidence to bowl at death: Dhoni

Rahane then took his India teammate Yadav to cleaners with two sixes, including a scoop, following it up with an elegant cover drive. KKR’s baffling team combination strategy in benching Shardul Thakur and handing debut to David Wiese proved to be an eyesore. Kulwant Khejroliya, who had been brought in place of Thakur, took two wickets but leaked 44 runs in his two overs. Sunil Narine was also a big let down for KKR and conceded 23 runs from his two overs without taking any wicket.

KKR had the grip on CSK’s innings following a tidy five-run opening over by Umesh Yadav. Yet to open his account, Conway then got an easy reprieve when Wiese put down a return catch from his own bowling. Thereafter, it was all about CSK who cut loose with the Kiwi opener going after Wiese, smashing him for a six and following it up with 14 runs in the next over. His opening partner, Gaikwad too matched Conway in stroke-making as CSK cruised to 59 for no loss in the powerplay. The duo once again put together a perfect platform in a 73-run opening stand (45b) for the likes of Rahane and Dube to finish with an elan.

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