CSK claim victory despite Sarfaraz Khan, KL Rahul fifties

Chennai Super Kings 160 for 3 (Du Plessis 54, Dhoni 37*, R Ashwin 3-23) beat Kings XI Punjab 138 for 5 (Sarfaraz 67, Rahul 55, Harbhajan 2-17, Kuggeleijn 2-37) by 22 runs. King XI Punjab wasted a dominant position chasing a modest target of 161 as the spin trio of Harbhajan Singh, Ravindra Jadeja and Imran Tahir dragged Chennai Super Kings back into the game through their economy to help snatch a 22-run win at the Chepauk. Harbhajan had struck twice in the space of three balls in the second over of the Kings XI chase to claim Chris Gayle and Mayank Agarwal, but KL Rahul and Sarfaraz Khan responded with a 110-run third wicket stand to put Kings XI in the driver’s seat. But from the time that Sarfaraz drove Scott Kuggeleijn for six over long-off off the penultimate ball of the 12th over, the Super Kings spinners lulled Kings XI into a false sense of security their having despite wickets in hand as Rahul and Sarfaraz went six overs without a boundary.

The pair barely ran any twos either, meaning the equation went from a manageable 71 off 49 balls to 43 off 14 balls. David Miller, who arrived in the 18th when Rahul skied a catch to deep midwicket off Kuggeleijn, ended the streak with a four driven through long-off, but even with seven wickets in hand, the odds had shifted dramatically in favor of Super Kings. Deepak Chahar handed Kings XI a lifeline with two no-balls over waist height to start the 19th over, the first of which was slapped over point for four by Sarfaraz. But the pair of slower ball deliveries were not deemed dangerous by the umpires, who allowed Chahar to remain in the attack. Chahar redeemed himself on the second free hit with an excellent yorker and conceded just singles through the rest of the over before bowling Miller with a yorker.

With 26 to get off the final over, Kuggeleijn faced little pressure in closing out the win on his IPL debut, bouncing back after an expensive first spell in which he conceded 27 off his first two overs to end with 2 for 37. The resiliency of Super Kings enabled them to break a four-way deadlock on six points as they moved past Kings XI, Sunrisers Hyderabad and Kolkata Knight Riders for sole possession of first place. Shane Watson and Faf du Plessis ensured MS Dhoni’s decision to bat first was justified early on with a blemish-free Powerplay on the way to a 56-run opening stand. Du Plessis was especially impressive early, driving Mohammed Shami twice for four before ramping him over fine leg for six in the third over. The South African eventually brought up his half-century off 33 balls when he slog-swept M Ashwin for six in the 13th.

The lone star in the field for Kings XI was captain R Ashwin, who followed up the early wicket of Watson in the eighth over, caught at deep midwicket for 26, by striking off consecutive balls in the 14th. Du Plessis’ innings finally ended when he skied an on-drive to long-on before Suresh Raina missed a slog-sweep next ball to make it 100 for 3. Ambati Rayudu and MS Dhoni combined for a sharp burst towards the end of the innings, adding 60 off the final 38 balls. Dhoni ended unbeaten on 37 off 23 balls while Rayudu added 21 off 15, though hidden from Rayudu’s stat line was the way he got huge starts from the non-striker’s end after Ashwin’s spell ended, regularly leaving the crease long before the bowler had delivered the ball to pinch a trio of twos and make sure Dhoni stayed on strike to club some key runs at the end of the Super Kings innings.

After Harbhajan’s double-strike in the second over of the chase, Sarfaraz and Rahul regained control for Kings XI through the first half of the innings. Sarfaraz earned a reprieve on 16 off a Tahir wrong’un, when he was given not out for an lbw shout and Dhoni opted not to review, though replays later showed three reds. Sarfaraz stepped up the pace in the 12th, ramping Kuggeleijn over Dhoni for four before a six later in the over. But from then on Rahul and Sarfaraz lacked a sense of urgency and intent, which was best summed up when Tahir served up a meaty waist-high full toss off the last ball of the 17th that Rahul tapped softly to long-on for a single.