IPL: Watson, Dhoni muscle CSK to the top

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Chennai Super Kings 211 for 4 (Watson 78, Dhoni 51, Rayudu 41) beat Delhi Daredevils 198 for 5 (Pant 79, Shankar 54*, Asif 2-43) by 13 runs

MS Dhoni shapes to play the pull BCCI

ESPNcricinfo– Chennai Super Kings made as many as four changes, separated a successful opening combination, gave the new ball to two debutants, saw their frontline legspinner watch the others bowl and yet walked home to their sixth win and the top spot at the halfway mark. The vanquishing of Delhi Daredevils on Monday wasn’t down to just these factors though.

Two tournament stalwarts – Shane Watson and MS Dhoni – blitzed their way to half-centuries, together accounting for 129 of CSK’s 211 for 4 after being put in to bat. This was 13 too many for Daredevils, despite contrasting half-centuries from Rishabh Pant and Vijay Shankar. They slumped to their sixth loss in eight matches, with a playoff berth increasingly looking distant.

Watson hits top gear

After surviving a close lbw shout off the first ball of the match against Trent Boult – one that lost Daredevils a review because there was no conclusive evidence of ball hitting pad first – Watson took full toll on Liam Plunkett. The England fast bowler was smashed for back-to-back sixes for two consecutive overs that went for 35 as Watson raised a 25-ball half-century in the ninth over; only one of his 15 previous half-centuries came at a faster clip. By the end of that over, he had smashed seven sixes, a majority of those on the legside. CSK’s score after the first half read an imposing 96 without loss. All this even as the Faf du Plessis, who replaced Sam Billings, struggled to make a run-a-ball 33.

Iyer fills up Plunkett void

Shreyas Iyer, the Daredevils captain, then introduced Shankar, who had bowled just 2.3 overs in the tournament prior to this game, to make up for Plunkett’s poor start. The move paid off as Shankar removed du Plessis off his fifth delivery to break only the third hundred plus opening stand (102) this season. Off the next over, Glenn Maxwell struck first ball to send a heaving Suresh Raina back for a golden duck. That would be the first of two wickets to spin on the night, Watson would fall to an ungainly heave off Amit Mishra for a 40-ball 78, but not with leaving CSK a platform at 130 for 3 in 13.5 overs.

Dhoni, vintage Dhoni

Dhoni’s balls per boundary against the short ball this season is 3.3, among the best. Nine balls into his innings – he came in to bat in the 14th over – he received the first short ball from Boult. Dhoni’s ferocious bat speed allowed him to swat that for six. Then Boult went full, but it didn’t make a difference as Dhoni’s strong bottom-handed whip sent the ball soaring over long on. The over would cost Daredevils 21, and would be the trigger for another explosive finish. Dhoni would bludgeon two more full toss to finish with five sixes and a 22-ball half-century laced with some luck; Colin Munro put down a sitter at deep midwicket on 31.

All along, Rayudu played the perfect foil, contributing 29 in a 79-run fifth-wicket stand with Dhoni. Walking out at No. 4, he forced bowlers to alter their lines and lengths with premeditated movements. Daredevils have taken the most wickets in the last five overs – 21 – this season. Here, they managed just one, off the penultimate delivery when Rayudu ran the entire length of the pitch, only to be sent back, but not before making a 24-ball 41 that took him to the top of the leaderboard with 370 runs, 48 clear of second-placed Kane Williamson. The last five overs fetched 74, and CSK had their third 200 plus score this season.

CSK’s brand new new-ball pair impress

Lungi Ngidi had Colin Munro beaten for raw pace thrice as his first IPL over was a maiden. With the new ball at the other end, KM Asif, an MRF Pace Foundation trainee who impressed in the domestic T20s for Kerala with raw pace, also cranked it upwards of 140 clicks. He was rewarded off his fourth ball when Prithvi Shaw mistimed a pull to a leaping Jadeja at mid off. Munro, on 1 off 7 at one stage, would then take Asif for two fours and a six in his second over, was beaten for pace as he mistimed a pull to deep midwicket in the fifth over. Two overs later, Iyer would see Pant turn his back on him to be run out, Daredevils in strife at 64 for 3 in eight overs.

Maxwell fails, Pant fires

With the chase quickly running out of steam, the onus was on Glenn Maxwell to play a blinder. But he was bowled attempting a wild heave off Ravindra Jadeja to leave Pant with too much to do. He tried, along the way giving glimpses of his big-hitting prowess to make a 35-ball half-century, his falling-over legside heaves and muscle earning seven fours and four sixes. After an early struggle, Shankar used his height and reach to wallop missed lengths for sixes to inject artificial excitement. At one stage, a last-over six that earned Shankar a 28-ball 50, reduced the equation to 19 off four, but all it managed to do was reduce Daredevils’ margin of defeat.

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