Chennai Super Kings 181 for 0 (du Plessis 87*, Watson 83*) beat Kings XI Punjab 178 for 4 (Rahul 63, Thakur 2-39) by 10 wickets
After losing three matches in a row, the Chennai Super Kings finally ditched their go-slow at the top and maximised the powerplay, dragging themselves off the bottom of the points table with a ten-wicket shellacking of the Kings XI Punjab in Dubai. Faf du Plessis and Shane Watson reeled off an unbroken 181 together for the first wicket – the highest partnership ever for the Super Kings – to hand the Kings XI their fourth defeat. It was also the second-highest target chased down in the IPL without losing a wicket.
Du Plessis, in particular, wasn’t fluent in the early exchanges, but he chanced his arm and kept clearing the infield. In the last over of the powerplay, du Plessis flitted around the crease and carted Chris Jordan for four fours in five balls, seemingly ruining the bowler’s 32nd birthday.
After managing 4, 33, 14, 1 in his first four innings this season, Watson, too, dashed out of the blocks rolling out his vintage slog-sweeps and lofts down the ground. He was the first to raise his half-century, off 31 balls, before du Plessis brought up his own landmark off 33 balls. The pair then cranked up the tempo further and toyed with a Kings XI side that had drafted in Jordan to beef up their bowling attack in place of New Zealand allrounder Jimmy Neesham.
The Kings XI had started strongly, too, earlier in the evening, with captain KL Rahul and Mayank Agarwal putting together their third fifty-plus opening stand in five innings. Rahul cut out all risks and was on 46 off 44 balls at the start of the 15th over; the Kings XI were 114 for 2 at that point. However, the big acceleration didn’t quite come to pass as Shardul Thakur had Rahul edging behind for 63 off 52 balls with a slower yorker. Thakur had also dismissed the big-hitting Nicholas Pooran in the same over – the 18th – to help limit the Kings XI to 178 for 4.
Rahul and Agarwal at it again
After opting to bat, Rahul saw off the early swing from Deepak Chahar and only went on the offensive when the Super Kings’ seamers provided him width. At the other end, though, Agarwal was more adventurous, backing away outside leg and clattering Chahar over extra-cover. He then nailed a front-foot pull off a heavy-length delivery from Thakur. However, legspinner Piyush Chawla cut short Agarwal’s knock at 26 off 19 balls with his first delivery.
Mandeep Singh, who was picked ahead of Karun Nair, infused more urgency into the innings, taking Chawla for 20 off just nine balls. Then, when he tried to take on Ravindra Jadeja’s left-arm fingerspin, he drilled him straight to Ambati Rayudu at extra-cover. After not picking up a single wicket in his last three matches, Jadeja got away to 3-0-17-1. However, the left-handed Nicholas Pooran messed with his figures, cracking him for back-to-back boundaries in his final over, including a massive six over midwicket. In contrast, Rahul continued to play himself in for the slog overs.
Thakur stays alive at the death
Rahul raised his fifty off his 46th ball with a six and hit the next two balls for boundaries as well. Just when he threatened to accelerate, Thakur tricked him with a slower wide yorker that found his outside edge. Dhoni dived to his right and became the second wicketkeeper, after Dinesh Karthik, to bag 100 catches. A ball before removing Rahul, Thakur had Pooran skying a catch for 33 off 17 balls. Although, Sarfaraz Khan got two fours away off the first two balls off the last over, Thakur adjusted his pace and lines to close out the innings well. In all, the Kings XI scored only 37 off their last four overs.
Hello, again, CSK
Watson set the tone for the Super Kings’ chase when he planted his front leg and lofted left-arm seamer Sheldon Cottrell over mid-on in the first over. The Kings XI then threw Harpreet Brar into the powerplay, matching him up with Watson, who tends to struggle against left-arm fingerspinners. In the game against the Delhi Capitals, Axar Patel found drift and cramped him for room, drawing a weak pull to deep midwicket. Watson, though, lofted Brar over his head and settled down. Du Plessis then kept swishing at the ball, exploiting the field restrictions, taking the Super Kings to 60 for 0 in six overs. It was the first time this season that the Super Kings openers had moved past the powerplay unscathed.
With Chawla, Shardul Thakur, and Deepak Chahar at Nos. 9, 10, and 11, Watson and du Plessis kept going after the bowlers. Legspinner Ravi Bishnoi put Watson off with his reverse diagonal run-up across the umpire like how Mumbai Indians’ Rahul Chahar often does. However, he, too, wasn’t spared as Watson smoked him past extra-cover and then Jordan returned to cop more punishment from Du Plessis.
Du Plessis finished the chase off in grand fashion in the 18th over with a one-handed six followed by a punched four off Mohammed Shami.