MS Dhoni's street-smart cricket once again came to Chennai Super Kings' rescue as the CSK skipper kept his cool to take Chennai home in a last-over finish, chasing Rajasthan Royals' modest 148 in Ranchi on Tuesday. The win also took Chennai top of the table, displacing Kings XI Punjab, with 16 points.
Dwayne Smith provided CSK the start with a 35-ball 44 to kick off their run-chase, with Faf Du Plessis (38 off 39) in the middle and Dhoni (26* off 16 balls) in the end securing a win for the hosts.
Chasing an average target of 149, CSK completed the win with two balls to spare as skipper Dhoni hit a six off the fourth ball of the final over bowled by James Faulkner to make the remaining 12 runs. Despite the loss, Royals, on 12 points from 10 games remained firmly in contention for a play-offs berth holding onto their third place.
While Smith batted in his customary attacking fashion hitting five fours and two sixes, Brendon McCullum (6) and Suresh Raina (2) were out playing poor shots to left-arm spinner Ankit Sharma. Smith hit a couple of straight sixes off Faulkner and was involved in a 35-run partnership with Du Plessis.
While Smith mistimed a pull-shot off Kevon Cooper to be caught by wicketkeeper Dishant Yagnik, R Ashwin (14), promoted up the order, was done in by a slower delivery from Rajat Bhatia. However, CSK's batting depth again came to the fore as Dhoni's presence ensured that it was the umpteenth time that the formidable outfit successfully chased down a target in the death overs.
Earlier, Rajasthan skipper Shane Watson came up with his best score of this season as he played a superb cameo of 51 but despite that RR lost momentum midway through the innings and were restricted to 148 for 8 by CSK bowlers.
Watson's decision to promote himself to the opening slot paid dividends as he emerged top scorer for his side in a 36-ball knock, which included four sixes and three fours. RR were cruising along nicely, reaching 84 for 1 at the halfway mark but lost wickets in a hurry after that as the batsmen tried to up the ante in the middle overs.
Except for a 60-run opening stand between Watson and young Ankit 30), RR failed to put up partnerships and that restricted them to a below-par score.
West Indies legspinner Samuel Badree began for CSK and bowled a superb three-over spell, conceding just 11 runs. He bowled a tight wicket-to-wicket line and Watson and Ankit played the bowler on merit.
Ankit then decided to break the shackles and scored some useful runs against Mohit Sharma, hitting the paceman for two consecutive boundaries. The youngster then showed his
aggressive side by plundering 17 runs off Ashwin's over, hitting the experienced spinner for two fours and a six. But Ashwin finally got the better of him in the next over and got him caught in the deep.
Watson was cautious initially even though he was striking the ball well. But the Australian exploded later as he punished debutant Vijay Shankar, reeling off 19 runs in his over. Ajinkya Rahane (4) was needlessly run out in a terrible mix-up with his captain. Waston then brought up his fifty in fine style as he clobbered Mohit for a six over the fine-leg boundary but was bowled immediately off the very next ball.
RR's downfall started with Watson's wicket as they kept losing one batsman after another from there on. Paceman Mohit (3 for 31) and left-arm spinner Ravindra Jadeja (2 for 18) shared five wickets between them.