However, CSK, the defending champions, never really gave the Kings any wriggle room right from the start of the chase, strolling to a 22-run win on Saturday afternoon and rising to the top of the table with 8 points from five games.
Veteran off-spinner Harbhajan Singh bowled yet another match-winning spell, starting with a crucial double blow in the second over of the chase.
Harbhajan lured Chris Gayle (5) with a sharply turning off-spinner and induced a faint edge which MS Dhoni gobbled up with glee. In-form Mayank Agarwal (0) lasted just two balls as he sliced across the line to hole out in the deep, quite a needless shot given the circumstances.
From then on, opener KL Rahul (55) and Sarfaraz Khan (67) went about resurrecting the innings. The pair kept in touch with the run-rate for the majority of the innings but just when they needed to put their foot on the accelerator, Rahul threw his wicket away.
The Karnataka opener scored his second half-century of the season off 41 balls but New Zealand paceman Scott Kuggeleijn, making his IPL debut, bounced out Rahul in the 18th over. The third wicket pair put on 110 runs but took 93 balls to score the runs, never really looking to target the spinners.
After Rahul’s dismissal, Kings XI needed 44 runs to win off 15 balls — still possible in the Andre Russell realm. But the visitors didn’t have a finishing blow.
Sarfaraz perished trying for the impossible in the final over, to give Kuggeleijn his second wicket of the innings. The pick of the CSK bowlers was Harbhajan with 2/17 in his four overs.
In fact the three CSK spinners — Harbhajan, Imran Tahir and Ravindra Jadeja — gave away only 61 runs in 12 overs which ultimately turned the tide for the home side.
Earlier, it was an innings in two-halves for the home side. South African ODI skipper Faf du Plessis got his first start of IPL-12 and made it count.
On the slow Chepauk pitch, du Plessis used the extra pace of Kings XI pacemen like Mohammed Shami and Andrew Tye to good use. The CSK opener raced to his fifty in just 33 balls with 4 sixes and two fours.
Du Plessis put on 56 runs for the first wicket — the highest opening stand for CSK of the season — with Shane Watson (26 off 24). Both openers found the going comfortable till there was pace on the ball but Kings XI skipper Ashwin, on his home ground, bowled beautifully to turn the tide along with M Ashwin who too conceded only 23 from his spell.
Watson failed to clear the longer square boundary, going for an ambitious slog-sweep off Ashwin. The off-spinner then made major dents to the CSK innings in the 14th over with the twin strikes of Du Plessis (54) and Suresh Raina (17) off successive deliveries but Ambati Rayudu prevented Kings XI’s second hat-trick off the tournament.
CSK skipper Dhoni and Rayudu played sensibly according to the situation, putting on 60 runs in 6.2 overs to give the hosts a defendable target. With Rayudu struggling for touch, relegated to No. 5 from the opening position, it was Dhoni who had to take on the role of the aggressor.
Dhoni smashed an unbeaten 37 off 23 balls with four fours and a six, including 19 runs off Kings XI all-rounder Sam Curran’s final over — the penultimate of the innings. The late charge helped CSK nullify Ashwin’s superb spell of 3/23 in four overs.
CSK proved superior at the crucial stages of the game, especially the end phases of both innings, which helped them keep their nose in front.
CSKFaf du Plessisharbhajan singhImran Tahiripl 2019kl rahulKXIPM AshwinR AshwinRavindra Jadejasarfaraz khan
First Published: April 7, 2019, 7:10 AM IST