The Chennai Super Kings defeated defending champions Kolkata Knight Riders by two runs and reclaimed their place at the top of the Pepsi IPL 2015 standings. After posting a modest 134 runs on a difficult pitch at the MA Chidambaram Stadium in Chennai, the hosts bowled and fielded like they were possessed, with plenty of spirit and gumption, and restricted the visitors to 132 for 9.
KKR were pushed on the backfoot right at the start of their chase when Ishwar Pandey found the outside edge of Gautam Gambhir's willow. Robin Uthappa and Manish Pandey put the innings back on the rails with a 51-run stand. The second-wicket pair made good use of the pace of the CSK quick bowlers, picking up eight boundaries and a six in five overs.
But the introduction of spin in the sixth over – in the form of R Ashwin – derailed the chase, and a lot of it had to do with poor shot-selection from the KKR batsmen. The CSK off-spinner struck with his first delivery when Uthappa (39 from 17 balls, 6 fours, 1 six) pulled a short delivery but McCullum converted the half-chance and took a low catch. The off-spinner struck for a second time with the first delivery of his second over when Manish Pandey's slog sweep landed in the hands of Dwayne Bravo at midwicket.
MS Dhoni seized the opportunity to apply the squeeze on the visitors, and his spinners responded. Between overs 7.2 and 14, Ashwin, Ravindra Jadeja and Suresh Raina rolled their arm over, conceding only 23 runs in 40 deliveries. It was in this period of play that one got to see plenty of intensity from the CSK fielders; Dwayne Bravo, Faf du Plessis, McCullum and Suresh Raina threw themselves around, cutting off plenty of runs. The highlight of that period of play was Bravo's catch to dismiss Suryakumar Yadav.
Ryan ten Doeschate waged a lone battle for the visitors and took his team to the brink. But KKR, who after five overs were faced with a required run rate of 5.53, finished their twenty overs three runs short at 132 for 9. ten Doeschate (38 from 28 balls, 3 fours & 2 sixes) and Brad Hogg (2) remained unbeaten at the crease at the end.
The match was always billed as a contest between the spin bowlers on the two sides, and CSK's spinners were certainly far ahead on the day. The eight overs bowled by Ashwin (2 for 5), Jadeja (3-0-11-0) and Raina (3-0-12-0) had 26 dot deliveries and one boundary. Bravo finished the most successful bowler of the evening, picking up three wickets, while Pandey and Ashish Nehra (who reclaimed the Purple Cap) picked up a wicket apiece.
Earlier in the evening, the Chennai Super Kings, who were put in to bat, didn't capitalise on a blazing start provided by their opening pair of Dwayne Smith and Brendon McCullum. The CSK openers took full toll of the pace of Pat Cummins and Umesh Yadav, hitting five boundaries and two sixes as CSK raced to 42 in 4.3 overs. Leg-spinner Piyush Chawla broke that partnership when he landed a flipper that McCullum didn't pick and was adjudged to be in front of the stumps when he was struck on the pad. The Kiwi batsman made 19 from 14 balls, studded with three boundaries and a six.
Suresh Raina opened his account with a slog-sweep off Chawla, but struggled for most part of his innings, especially against Brad Hogg. Both he and Smith, who made 25 from 19 balls, were dismissed in consecutive overs with their team at 67 for 3 after 9.3 overs.
MS Dhoni gloved an attempted pull in the twelfth over, while Dwayne Bravo's chip landed in the hands of long off in the thirteenth over, as CSK were reduced to 88 for 5. The rescue effort came from Faf du Plessis and Ravindra Jadeja, who added 36 runs in 5.5 overs before the latter was deceived in the air by Hogg and had his stumps disturbed. du Plessis remained unbeaten on a run-a-ball 29 as the hosts finished their twenty overs at 134 for 6. The CSK innings had only 12 boundaries and three sixes; there were only four boundaries hit in the back half of the innings.
For KKR, Pat Cummins (who replaced Morne Morkel) was impressive in his first outing of the season. But it was the spin pair of Hogg and Chawla that put the brakes on CSK's rapid start. The 44-year old Hogg (who replaced Sunil Narine) mixed his chinamans and wrong 'uns very well, kept the batsmen guessing all the while, and finished with figures of 1 for 18 from his four overs. The leg-spinner Chawla, introduced into the attack in the fifth over, bowled his four overs for 26 runs, returning with the scalps of McCullum and Bravo. Andre Russell, the fifth bowler used by KKR, picked up the two big wickets – of Raina and Dhoni – before finishing his spell with figures of 4-0-26-2.
Chennai Super Kings 134-6 in 20.0 Overs (Faf du Plessis 29*, Piyush Chawla 2-26, Andre Russell 2-26) Kolkata Knight Riders 132-9 in 20.0 Overs (Robin Uthappa 39, Dwayne Bravo 3-22)
Man of the Match: Dwayne Bravo for his match winning spell 3 - 22