IPL 2019 50th Match – Dhoni, Jadeja and Tahir send Capitals on a tailspin

Chennai Super Kings 179 for 4 (Raina 59, Dhoni 44*) beat Delhi Capitals 99 (Iyer 44, Tahir 4-12, Jadeja 3-9) by 80 runs. There was a five-over game at the IPL on Tuesday, and while this was played over the full 20, it was the final five of the Chennai Super Kings’ innings that effectively sealed Delhi Capitals’ fate. Having made a sluggish start, Super Kings innings came to life in the death overs, more than half of their 179 coming in the last six. It might have looked slightly above par at the change of innings, but on a pitch that obviously favoured the spinners, Imran Tahir and Ravindra Jadeja put on masterclasses, taking seven wickets for 21 runs between them that sealed a comprehensive 80 run win for the hosts.

A half-century from Suresh Raina had kept things ticking along in a first hour firmly played on the Capital’s terms, but a cameo from Jadeja and yet another MS Dhoni blitz at the end was enough to undo most of the Capital’s good work in the early overs. The final over from Trent Boult, who had conceded just two in his first two overs, was tonked for 21, creating a wave of momentum Super Kings surfed on for the remainder of the game. The chase suggested a tight game as far as the opening Powerplay went, but a sensational collapse saw Shreyas Iyer’s side slip from 81 for 4 to 99 all out. A game that had begun so auspiciously for the Capitals finished up as a proper drubbing that leaves their quest for a top-two finish on shaky grounds.

Dhoni has spent much of 2019 making fools of those who wrote him off. He has always appeared to produce his best clad in the yellow of the Super Kings, and Wednesday’s performance was just another in the ever-burgeoning catalog of memorable Dhoni performances for his beloved franchise. Super Kings were barely batting above a run a ball with 6.2 overs to go when he walked out to bat. He couldn’t quite get going straight away, so found himself content rotating the strike, allowing a more fluid Jadeja to do the heavy lifting. But with seven balls left in the innings, Dhoni showed he showed his unmatched ability to make up for a lost time, and then some.

Delhi Capitals won the toss and elected to bowl first.

A six off a beamer from Chris Morris off the final ball of the 19th got him going, but it was the Capitals’ best bowler who would come in for the roughest treatment. Boult had kept Super Kings on a leash in his opening spell, with the hosts managing just seven runs off the first four. A boundary off the third delivery followed by a scampered single didn’t seem too bad, but Boult would send down a wide that enabled Dhoni to scurry back to the strikers’ end. The final two balls went halfway up the second tier to power Dhoni to 44 of 22, with 21 coming off the last over alone.

This was Dhoni at his cavalier best; he has struck 46 sixes in the final over of IPL innings, more than twice as much as anyone else. And he wasn’t nearly done, because Dhoni continues to take his wicketkeeping duties exceptionally seriously. Lightning-quick glovework behind the stumps saw both Chris Morris and Iyer, who top scored with a sparkling 44, stumped, the elegant flicking off the bail indistinguishable from the final hammered nail into the Capitals’ coffin.

Graeme Swann said at the pitch report the surface was such a delicious turner that he regretted having hung up his boots, but someone just three days younger than him continued to plug away. Imran Tahir, 40, presumably shared Swann’s excitement at how the surface looked and showed everyone why when he came on. He was summoned first for the 11th over, and two balls later made his initial mark. A google from Tahir flummoxed Axar Patel, who found himself lured into a drive, only to nick to Shane Watson at first slip. Four balls later, rising star Sherfane Rutherford was undone by another googly, a comfortable catch going straight to backward point.

Tahir would take two more wickets to finish up with four for 12, but Jadeja at the other end was having an equally devastating effect. He had struck with his fourth delivery to send Colin Ingram packing with a sharp turner, and two more – thanks in part to Dhoni’s reflexes in his third overall but sealed Capitals’ fate. All told, eight of the Capitals’ wickets had fallen to spin, and their own inability to take advantage of the wicket in the first innings saw them pay a heavy price.

It all looked very different in an odd start to the match. Super Kings may have been put in to bat, but Dhoni had indicated he wanted that anyway, and for a side that opens with Watson and Faf du Plessis, they began exceptionally sluggishly. Watson was back to looking like the player who had struggled in the first ten games, while a beautiful opening spell from Boult, complemented superbly by J Suchith meant only seven were scored in the first four. Had the Capitals’ not lost complete control over the last six, in which Super Kings plundered 91, the chase would not have been as steep as it ended up being.

The mental toll the target took, and indeed the manner it had been set, was enough to scramble the visitors’ minds, with the clear-thinking, unflappable Dhoni ensuring his side struck a telling blow ahead of the upcoming playoffs, where they could well play the first qualifier at home.