They say, desperate times call for desperate measures and when it does, one needs to break the shackles. Well, this entire sentence is perfectly applicable to Chennai Super Kings' (CSK) newly-found proactive approach against Sunrisers Hyderabad (SRH) which was evident on Tuesday night.
Coming into the match with just two wins in seven outings, CSK badly needed a victory and in search of those magical two points, the 'Yellow Brigade' finally got out their age-old tried and tested playing template. And guess what, the change in method immediately turned the tide in their favour.
It all started with CSK batting first for the first time in the competition. Before this game their approach with the bat was pretty straight-forward – start slowly and go hard in the last 10 overs. But, of course, this season the plan wasn't working, especially at the top as no team had scored as slowly as CSK in the powerplay ahead of this fixture. Also, with the pitches getting slower and lower, upping the ante towards the end has become a tougher ask as well.
Hence came the promotion of Sam Curran as an opener. He was given a specific role – utilise the powerplay and go after the SRH medium pacers. It was a pure gamble as the management had to get Shane Watson out of his comfort zone. But thankfully for them, the move worked as Curran's 21-ball 31 set the tone for the innings despite CSK losing Faf du Plessis for a golden duck. He went after Khaleel Ahmed in a 22-run over but was dismissed by Sandeep Sharma in the second last over of the powerplay. By that time Chennai had the momentum they were looking for.
Next, it was pleasing to notice a refreshing change in the intent of the CSK batters in the middle overs.
Before this game, between 6 to 16 overs, CSK had a dot ball percentage of 33.09 and the second-worst scoring rate (7.61). So, clearly this was one area which they needed to rectify and Watson-Rayudu pair, which batted for the major part of this phase took care of that.
On Tuesday night there were just 18 dot balls between 6 to 16 overs as the Watson-Rayudu third-wicket partnership added 81 off 64. Though Watson was a bit slowed down by Shahbaz Nadeem's left-arm spin, Rayudu's free-flowing approach at the other end didn't let the run-rate suffer. The pair also hit five sixes during these middle-overs and for a team which had only 35 sixes (least by any team in IPL 2020) in their previous seven games, it was a welcome change.
Towards the end MS Dhoni (21 off 13) and Ravindra Jadeja (25* off 10) provided the finishing touches as CSK scored 48 in their last four.
In their defence of 167 on a sluggish Chepauk-like Dubai surface, CSK went in with seven proper bowling options. Dhoni knew SRH's strength lies in their dynamic top four. Hence, he didn't hold-back his primary wicket-takers and used them upfront.
Starting with the new ball, Deepak Chahar bowled four overs on a trot. Though he went wicketless but kept the David Warner-Jonny Bairstow pair under pressure. It created a wicket-taking opportunity at the other end for Curran as he got rid of the SRH skipper (Warner). In the same over Manish Pandey was sent back through a run-out.
With those early breakthroughs the stage was set for the Chennai slow bowlers as the likes of Jadeja and Karn Sharma created a spin-wave around the SRH batters, from which they never came out, despite the best efforts of Kane Williamson.
With no momentum in their innings, Sunrisers were well behind the eight ball right from the start. And when Dhoni unleashed Jadeja and Karn Sharma in tandem, SRH were left tottering at 60 for 3 at the halfway stage, needing 108 in the last 10.
Interestingly, Piyush Chawla, who had started the season as the Super Kings' frontline spinner, was barely needed in the game. Even in the crucial 18th over, when SRH needed 46 off 18 with a set Williamson at the crease, Dhoni trusted Karn ahead of Chawla. It was clearly an instinctive move which eventually fetched the wicket of the big fish.
Towards the end when SRH were threatening to make a comeback through some power-hitting of Rashid Khan, Shardul Thakur and Dwayne Bravo saved the day for CSK without any further twist in the tale.
"With a total like 160, it all depends on the start you get in the first six overs. The fast bowlers did the job, the spinners came into play and it was one game that was as close to being perfect," Dhoni said at the post-match presentation.
"As the tournament progresses we'll get more comfortable with the death bowling, which is why we kept Sam away from the death and Thakur and Bravo took over. We'll get better. We need to think more about the process, the points table will take care of itself."
For a Chennai fan these encouraging words coming from their captain will certainly raise hopes of making a backdoor entry in the playoffs. Well, this team had already experienced a similar turnaround back in 2010. Though on this occasion it will be a much stiffer task but one thing is certain, with this newly-found intent in their approach, CSK will be a much tougher team to beat on these slow-ish UAE pitches in the second half of this IPL 2020.
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Chennai Super Kings restricted Kolkata Knight Riders to 165/9 after posting a challenging 192/3 on the board to lift the IPL trophy for a fourth time under MS Dhoni's leadership.
The 40-year-old former India captain, playing his 10th IPL final (ninth for CSK as captain), has led the 'Yellow Brigade' in 214 games across 12 editions that they have taken part out of the 14 IPL seasons.
Dhoni, the most loved and revered Indian captain of all time, led Chennai Super Kings, a team of old warhorses with oodles of experience, to another IPL title.