New Delhi: Whoever thought that Mahendra Singh Dhoni is past his prime, got their first reality check when he took Chennai inches away from a thrilling win against Kings XI Punjab from the jaws of defeat. But on Wednesday, the Man with the Midas touch showed what finishing games off in style means when he hit a six off Corey Anderson to take Chennai Super Kings home in the Clash of the Titans against Royal Challengers Bangalore at the M Chinnaswamy Stadium. Needing 16 off the final over, Dwayne Bravo started the onslaught with a four and a six, but it was the skipper who swiveled across to the off-side and launched Anderson into the long-on stands as his Chennai teammates erupted in the dug-out.
If death bowling hasn’t been Royal Challengers Bangalore’s forte this season in the Indian Premier League, Dhoni’s reputation as a finisher has dwindled in the last couple of years. But cometh the hour and cometh the man as Captain Cool had the fans inside the M Chinnaswamy Stadium stand up and applaud as Chennai managed to chase down RCB’s total of 205 with two balls to spare. More than Chennai Super Kings taking on RCB, it was about current India skipper Virat Kohli clashing against his predecessor Dhoni. And while Kohli flattered to deceive, Dhoni kept calm and took his team home with an unbeaten knock of 70 off just 34 balls with 7 sixes and a boundary.
While Dhoni does deserve praise for showing his mettle in a high-intensity clash, credit must also be given to Ambati Rayudu who managed to hit a 53-ball 82 to play the perfect aggressor even as Dhoni mixed caution with aggression in Chennai’s mammoth chase of 206. Dhoni made his intentions clear from the word go as the otherwise slow starting CSK skipper hit a six off the third ball he faced — from Pawan Negi. More importantly, it was the much-needed kick the innings needed as the scoreboard read that Chennai needed 132 runs in 11 over with just six wickets in the bag.
But nothing is impossible when you have a man with the experience of Dhoni in the middle and guiding an in-form Rayudu who had already made his intentions clear by taking the attack to the RCB bowlers from the word go. And the best part of the chase was how Dhoni and Rayudu broke it all up. Needing 132 from 66 balls when Dhoni took strike, they first worked the singles and hit the timely boundaries to take Chennai to the last 6 with the visitors needing 80.
And with Dhoni going strong and the RCB bowling lacking the experience, it looked like Dhoni’s sole idea was to take the game deep. And with Rayudu for company, he kept doing just that as Chennai needed 71 off 30 balls, 55 off 24 balls, 45 off 18 balls, 30 off 12 balls and finally 16 off the last six balls.
When Dwayne Bravo hit a four and a six off the first two balls, it almost looked like even the powers above wanted a repeat of history as the same target was chased down by Chennai against RCB in 2012, only that time the game was at home for CSK. With 5 needed off 3 balls, it almost looked inevitable that the cricket lovers would see a repeat of the 2011 World Cup finish and that is exactly what happened as Dhoni swiveled across and launched the ball into orbit.
Earlier, it was a brilliant display of batsmanship from both AB de Villiers and Quinton de Kock on a wicket that was definitely not the typical batting paradise that the Chinnaswamy has been known to produce in the last few years. In fact, Dhoni himself admitted that a score of 205 was 15-20 over par and that is exactly what the idea was for the South African duo after Kohli flattered to deceive with a 15-ball 18. While ABD dealt in boundaries, de Kock (53) was more than happy to run the singles and doubles.
In fact, had Imran Tahir not picked AB de Villiers (68) and Anderson (2) in quick succession, it almost looked like RCB was bent on getting anything close to 250. But the quick wickets in the middle overs and a good last over from Bravo wherein RCB lost 3 wickets meant that Chennai were still in the game.