After suffering two losses on the road, Chennai Super Kings returned to the MA Chidambaram Stadium and extended their undefeated run at home this season to five games by winning a choppy contest against Royal Challengers Bangalore. The 24-run victory took Super Kings to 14 points, level with table-toppers Rajasthan Royals with a game in hand. Royal Challengers were left in third place on nine points, with four teams not more than a point behind them.
Batsmen from both sides struggled on a sweltering day in Chennai but when Virat Kohli and Dinesh Karthik were at the crease, with Royal Challengers needing 52 off 37 balls with seven wickets in hand, the visitors were favourites. They had added 63 and were cruising, when Dwayne Bravo turned the match with a stunning display of reflexes and athleticism while bowling.
Kohli had stepped out of his crease and dug a yorker hard into the ground. He then took a couple of steps further, partly because of momentum and partly because he thought the ball was going to bounce over the bowler. Bravo, however, jumped high during his follow through with his right hand outstretched above his head to field the ball. He let the throw rip even before his feet were grounded again. Caught by surprise, Kohli turned and dived in desperation as the ball whizzed past him and uprooted middle stump, with the bat inches short of the crease.
The very next ball – the first of the 15th over – accounted for Karthik. Nehra pitched short and Karthik pulled; the shot was on but the placement was dire. The ball flew straight to Dwayne Smith at deep midwicket. Royal Challengers had lost two set batsmen in two deliveries and their position of strength unravelled so quickly that they were eventually dismissed for 124 in 19.4 overs.
Royal Challengers had struggled before the partnership between Kohli and Karthik too, but that was because of soft dismissals and not exceptional play from the Super Kings. Chris Gayle’s replacement, Nic Maddinson, charged at most deliveries and missed a straight full toss to be bowled; AB de Villiers’ dangerous cameo ended when he hit another full toss to mid-off; and Mandeep Singh was run out attempting an impossible single. In pursuit of 149, Royal Challengers had slipped to 34 for 3, and their subsequent recovery did not have a happy ending.
Super Kings’ bowlers and fielding made up for a sputtering batting performance after MS Dhoni had won the toss. Smith did not touch the first five balls of Mitchell Starc’s opening over and was bowled by the sixth. The innings never really recovered from that wicket maiden.
Suresh Raina held the innings together with a half-century, but the batsmen around him – Brendon McCullum, Faf du Plessis and MD Dhoni – did not make it past 30 as they struggled for timing.
Super Kings had got to only 68 for 2 at the half-way stage of their innings, and the 10th ,11th and 12th overs contained no boundaries. When they tried to accelerate, sixes were often followed by wickets.
Harshal Patel severely damaged the innings by bowling du Plessis with the first ball of the 15th over and then trapping Raina lbw with the last. Super Kings were 101 for 4 at that stage. Ravindra Jadeja and Pawan Negi were both promoted ahead of Bravo, who eventually batted at No. 8 for only the second time in his IPL career. Bravo did not have any time to make an impact with the bat, but underlined his value to the team with an incredible effort in the field to turn the game decisively Super Kings’ way.