After Dale Steyn and Umesh Yadav ran through the Chennai top-order in a run-chase of 162, it appeared as though CSK were down and out of the game. Dhoni had walked in with the score at 28/4 with the powerplay overs almost done.
He took his time to play himself in and focused on denying RCB any more wickets. With Rayudu, Dhoni put on a resilient stand where he only kept the scoreboard ticking but ensured the required run rate was never completely out of reach.
The duo stitched together a 55-run stand in less than eight overs before Rayudu fell. Dhoni was on 29 off 27 balls at the end of the 15th over and CSK were some way off from the target, needing 70 in five overs to win the game. 13, 8, 13 and 10 came off the next few overs as Dhoni changed gears swiftly but still kept the bulk of the work for the final over.
With 26 required in the last over, the CSK skipper hit Umesh Yadav for a four followed by two maximums to bring the equation down to 10 in three balls. From 8 needed off 2 balls, Dhoni hit another maximum, his seventh in the innings. However, he missed the final ball, a slower one outside off-stump, and even though a single was attempted, Parthiv Patel threw down the stumps to catch Shardul Thakur short.
RCB won by a run but Dhoni's incredible performance gave CSK a chance from nowhere. In the last five overs, CSK made 68 runs and 55 of those came from Dhoni who made his career-best score in the IPL. This year, Dhoni has carried on from where he left off in International cricket and last year's IPL.
After returning to CSK with 455 runs in 16 matches at an average of 75.83 last season, Dhoni has shouldered bigger responsibility this year with a faltering top-order.
In nine matches so far, Dhoni has 314 runs at an average of 104.66, the best in the season for any batsman. He has three half-centuries in seven innings so far this year, already the second joint-most number of fifties he has in a year after 2013.
He has been his calm and influential self in run-chases this season. His scores in run-chases in the 2019 season reads thus: 32*(Delhi Capitals), 12 (Mumbai Indians), 58 (Rajasthan Royals), 16 (Kolkata Knight Riders), 84* (Royal Challengers Bangalore).
A total of 202 runs in five matches at an average of 67.33 considering he has been unbeaten in two of those matches.
Dhoni's ability to soak pressure and save the team from difficult positions will auger well for India heading into the World Cup. Pretty good at arresting collapses of late, Dhoni nearly pulled off a massive heist at Bengaluru much akin to last season.
In 2018, in the match against RCB at Chinnaswamy, Dhoni had made an unbeaten 70 in 34 balls with seven sixes to take Chennai to a win in a 200-plus run-chase. They scored 72 in 4.4 overs then to win the match.
First Published: April 22, 2019, 5:45 AM IST