New Delhi: Ruturaj Gaikwad's cool quotient blended beautifully with Faf du Plessis' flamboyance as Chennai Super Kings outsmarted Sunrisers Hyderabad by seven wickets in an Indian Premier League (IPL) match, here on Wednesday.
Gaikwad was calmness personified as he tore apart the Sunrisers attack during his 75 off 44 balls after Du Plessis (56 off 38 balls) launched the initial assault, making a target of 172 looking easier than it actually was.
The win was CSK's fifth win on the trot which helped them leapfrog Royal Challengers Bangalore to the top of the table while Hyderabad stayed at the bottom.
If Du Plessis shimmied down the track to loft left-arm spinner Jagadeesha Suchith over long-on for a six, Gaikwad would rock back and pull him over deep mid-wicket for a boundary.
If Gaikwad's inside-out lofted boundary off Suchith over extra cover was a treat, the use of crease to back-cut the bowler off the very next delivery was equally delectable.
There was a stage at the end of the powerplay when Du Plessis had scored double the runs of his younger partner but before one could bat an eyelid, the Pune batsman was on even keel with the former Proteas captain.
And once both crossed 50, Du Plessis enjoyed Gaikwad's repertoire of strokes from the best seat in the house.
The temperament was there for everyone to see and one would understand why MS Dhoni has been bullish about giving the youngster every possible opportunity despite a dry run at the start of the tournament.
A pitch that his skipper Dhoni had termed a bit tacky before the start of the match looked like a batting paradise. The dew did play its part but not an ounce of credit can be taken away from the batsmen.
The happy hunt continues at the Capital too! #WhistlePodu for the Periya win!
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By the time Rashid Khan (3/36) quickly accounted for Gaikwad after a 129 run opening stand followed by Moeen Ali and Du Plessis, SRH captain David Warner had a resigned look on his face.
Earlier, after opting to bat, contrasting half-centuries from Manish Pandey and skipper Warner along with a cameo from Kane Williamson ensured a decent 171/3 for SRH.
Warner (57 off 55 balls) and Pandey (61 off 46 balls) added 106 runs for the second wicket at the Kotla but it was Williamson's 26 not out off 10 balls and Kedar Jadhav's 12 off 4 balls which ensured a competitive total for SRH.
Lungi Ngidi was the best bowler for CSK, returning figures of 2 for 35 from 4 overs while Sam Curran (1/30) got the other wicket.
Warner, who passed 10,000 T20 runs during the course of his innings, appeared frustrated at times at the inability to force the pace on a track where the ball wasn't always coming onto the bat.
His 50th IPL half-century had three fours and two sixes but it was not his usual aggressive, bustling knock. He could not get going and his powerful hits went straight to the fielders.
Ngidi ended Warner's misery by having him caught by Ravindra Jadeja as the batsman attempted a hoick off a widish delivery.
Pandey, in contrast, was faster. Back in the side after being dropped following a few patchy knocks, the Karnataka right-hander showed intent from the beginning. He hit Moeen Ali for a huge six early in his innings but could not get the big hits on a consistent basis.
Ngidi dismissed Pandey for 61 thanks to an incredible effort by Faf du Plessis at wide long-on, with a diving effort.
Jonny Bairstow (7) fell early, looking to run down the pitch against Sam Curran and failing to control a pull shot that was caught by Deepak Chahar. He couldn't capitalise after a let-off in the first over when Dhoni could not hold on to a nick.
Skipper Warner and Manish Pandey were subdued and the first six overs yielded 39 runs.
Deepak Chahar (0/21) could not provide the early breakthrough as he always does but the other bowlers ensured that SRH did not run away with momentum.
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Du Plessis eventually got on his feet and walked back to the team dugout before being taken to hospital for scans.
A controversy erupted after Pakistan last Thursday named uncapped Azam, son of former captain Moin Khan, in the T20 squad for the tours of England and West Indies, with many believing that his father is behind his selection.
Du Plessis said the administrators of the game must strike a balance between leagues and international cricket.