Over the years, Chennai Super Kings have had a definite edge over Rajasthan Royals. But, on Sunday at the Motera stadium in Ahmedabad, Rajasthan definitely proved that so far they have been the best team in the tournament. Until Chennai and Rajasthan met, both teams were unbeaten in the edition. Rajasthan though put up such a splendid display that Chennai could not match them at ball. First with the bat, and then with the ball, Rajasthan were completely in control, never allowing Chennai to have a say in the game. With five wins in five, they are now the team to beat in the tournament.
Chennai lost simply because most of their star batsmen had an off-day, which is a rarity. Batting first, they needed another good start from Brendon McCullum and Dwayne Smith. But, while Smith continued his good form, McCullum fell early, which set Chennai back early in the innings. Suresh Raina hasn’t had a good season so far. This was his time to excel, but he too fell early. The wicket of Faf du Plessis put Chennai in further trouble. However, the bigger loss was the fall of the set Smith for 40. Had Smith carried, Chennai could have hoped for a bigger score.
Chennai recovered well in the second half of their innings, thanks to Dwayne Bravo, who led the wonderful fightback. He did not allow the pressure to get to him, and hit boundaries at will. However, Chennai were handicapped by the fact that MS Dhoni could not find the fence. He looked completely out of sorts,and for a change, Chennai were hurt by Dhoni’s presence out in the middle. After all, he managed a strike rate of only 84, which is unacceptable in the last overs.
Rajasthan’s bowling was highly impressive. Chris Morris particularly stood out, conceding only 19 runs in his four overs. But, it was a complete team bowling effort that made the difference. James Faulkner, Pravin Tambe and Ankit Sharma also chipped in nicely. They did not allow Chennai to blaze away at any stage, even as Bravo went berserk at the end. The bowlers set up things nicely for Rajasthan.
Chennai have defended mid-size targets earlier in the tournament, but against a team high on confidence, it was a going to be an extremely difficult task. And, it proved to be so. Shane Watson, making a comeback after injury, looked in super touch, and Ajinkya Rahane continued his brilliant form. In the end, it was all to easy for Rajasthan, as they asserted their superiority. Chennai, on the other, hand and a forgettable day, which they would be keen to put behind.
--By A Cricket Analyst