Dhoni came out to bat with CSK reeling at 27 for 3 in the 5th over. Ambati Rayudu, Shane Watson and Kedar Jadhav were all dismissed by some good bowling by the RR pacemen – Jofra Archer, Ben Stokes and Dhawal Kulkarni had all chipped in with a wicket each. Archer, in particular, was exceptional and kept the batsmen on a tight leash giving nothing away.
Dhoni had the task of resurrecting the innings with Suresh Raina. He dropped anchor and let the left-hander take the occasional calculated risk. CSK had moved to 67 for 3 after 11.2 overs when Dhoni changed gear and hit his first boundary.
The pair had (till then) stitched together a patient and cautious 40-run stand in 39 deliveries. Dhoni had contributed just 12 off 16 balls without a single hit to the fence or over it. He was happy to take the ones and twos giving the strike to Raina.
From 11.3 overs till the end of the 17th over, Dhoni went a gear up. He scored 26 runs in 18 deliveries with three boundaries at a strike rate of 144.44. He faced just 4 dot balls in this period. A cut to the boundary between point and short third-man off a slower one from Archer was one of the telling shots of this phase of play.
Dhoni now was in top gear. He hammered Kulkarni over extra cover for a six before driving Archer through point to the boundary to register his 21st IPL fifty – off 39 deliveries. He put together 56 with Dwayne Bravo and matched him in terms of runs scored and strike rate, both. Dhoni contributed 26 off 14 while Bravo played a little cameo and smashed 27 off 16.
But the best was reserved for the last. Ravindra Jadeja tonked Jaydev Unadkat for a six back over the bowler’s head. And then it was the Mahi Show.
Dhoni pulled a slower one over backward square, flat-batted a six over long off before depositing a length ball on middle stump over long on for his third consecutive maximum. Unadkat was taken for 28 in the final over – the third-most expensive final over in IPL history!
From 55 for 3 after 10 overs, CSK had powered to 175 for 5 after 20. They had added 120 in the last 10! And an incredible 60 off the last 3.
Dhoni blasted 37 in the last 12 deliveries he faced – at a phenomenal strike rate of 308.33!
He remained unbeaten on 75 off 46 deliveries – his second-highest score in IPL.
CSK had scored at a run-rate of 4.83 in the powerplay, 6.36 in the middle overs from the 7th to the 15th and at 15.20 from the 16th to the 20th overs.
Dhoni paced his innings beautifully. He was cautious and played the role of the anchor when CSK lost early wickets.
With the help of two partnerships, he gave them a platform to launch at the end and then went ballistic at the death.
He timed his acceleration to perfection.
Dhoni’s first 10 runs came at a strike rate of 76.92. From 11-30 he scored at a rate of 133.33 which went up some notches to 209.09 from 31 to 53. From 54 to 75, he rocketed at a rate of 314.29.
A typical Dhoni classic and CSK have now won 3 out of 3 and are perched at the top of the table.
First Published: April 1, 2019, 12:36 AM IST