By: Rachna Shetty (ESPNcricinfo)
A stunning 43-ball 90 from Suresh Raina was the cornerstone of Chennai Super Kings’ 54-run win over Dolphins in Bangalore but the contest, at least for the early part of the Dolphins chase, was far more closely matched than the eventual victory margin suggested.
Dolphins captain Morne van Wyk had opted to bowl and said his decision had been influenced by the reputation the Chinnaswamy Stadium had for aiding sides batting second. For 20 overs of Super Kings’ innings, however, van Wyk could only watch from behind the stumps as Raina, Brendon McCullum, Faf du Plessis and Ravindra Jadeja plundered runs at will, powering Super Kings to 242 for 6.
The Dolphins response was equally explosive at the start. Van Wyk and Cameron Delport raised the side’s 50 in 15 balls. By the end of the Powerplay, Dolphins had raced to 85 for 2, bettering the CLT20 record set by Super Kings earlier in the day. As is typical in big chases, the breakthroughs came when the Dolphins batsmen kept playing for the big shots, but they were also left to rue a poor decision from umpire K Srinath, who adjudged Van Wyk lbw when a ball from R Ashwin had pitched several inches outside leg stump. The dismissal came in an over where the Dolphins captain had smacked two fours and a six off the bowler.
After van Wyk was dismissed, Dolphins’ hopes rested on Delport who swung and swiped his way to a nine-ball 34. All but two of the deliveries he faced had raced to the boundary and his bustling innings had threatened to play out the same way as Andre Russell’s a few days ago before Mohit Sharma ended it with a slower ball.
After Delport was out, the pressure of keeping pace with a spiraling asking rate was squarely on Cody Chetty. He tried with a gamely 37 off 28 balls but his dismissal gave Super Kings an opening to stifle the scoring rate for a couple of overs and the bowlers responded. The target left Dolphins with no room for quiet overs and when those did come, especially during Bravo’s tight spell filled with variations of slower balls, whatever little hope they had left slipped away quickly.
In sharp contrast, unburdened by a target hanging over them, the Super Kings innings motored along at top speed. MS Dhoni had some concerns at the toss about how the track would behave due to the presence of a few patches but there was little to worry about for Super Kings once they began. After Dwayne Smith fell early to the left-arm spin of Keshav Maharaj, Raina and McCullum set about dismantling the Dolphins attack, matching each other almost stroke for stroke during a relentless 91-run stand that came off 45 balls.
The Dolphin pacers, including Kyle Abbott, had few answers to the fearsome shots McCullum unleashed either side of the wicket, harking back in some ways to the whirlwind century he played during the first game of the Indian Premier League.
The pair led Super Kings to the second-best Powerplay score of the season, smashing 70 in the first six overs. Raina got off the mark with a four and after that, kept carving out sixes effortlessly. The scoring rate barely suffered a hiccup when McCullum was out for 49 – caught at deep midwicket off a mis-timed shot – as Raina took over the lead role. He marched to a fifty off 27 balls and in a third-wicket partnership of 65 with du Plessis, contributed 53 runs.
The gaps between the landmarks showed how effectively Super Kings had negated the Dolphins attack as the side progressed to 50 to 100 and 150 in 25, 28 and 26 balls, respectively. Sixty-four of Raina’s 90 runs came in boundaries and by the time his top edge settled in Delport’s hands at point, Raina had become the first Indian batsman to move past 5000 runs in T20s and was one short of 200 sixes in the format.
Dolphins’ relief over quick wickets at the end was also short-lived as Jadeja smashed 40 off 14 balls to produce a big flourish. Abbott came back and bowled a couple of quiet overs but by then the total had swelled to 242, equalling the tournament record set by Otago Volts last season.