What Dale Steyn’s vicious spell couldn’t do for Bangalore Royal Challengers, Ravichandran Aswhin’s super effort did for Chennai Super Kings against the Kolkata Knight Riders in a do or die encounter for both sides at Chepauk. While Deccan Chargers managed to recover from Steyn’s three-wicket burst, Kolkata were not as lucky as they were tamed by Chennai’s lions by a thumping 9-wicket margin.
Ashwin, who opening the bowling after Sourav Ganguly won the toss and elected to bat, sent back Chris Gayle, Brendon McCullum and David Hussey in no time to have Kolkata reeling at 19 for 4 at the completion of the fourth over. Thanks to some lusty hitting by Angelo Mathews (48) and good support from Manoj Tiwary (27), the visitors recovered somewhat to post 139 for 8.
But, Kolkata’s hopes of making a match out of it evaporated rather quickly as Suresh Raina (78 from 39 balls) went on an all-out attack after the early dismissal of Matthew Hayden. With Murali Vijay (50 off 40 balls) giving him company, the Super Kings never looked in even an inch of trouble.
Looking back, the game was decided within the first 20 minutes itself. Things weren’t all that bad for Kolkata when Gayle spanked Ashwin for a mammoth six. However, the very next ball, the off-spinner had his revenge when the tall West Indian was stumped for 7 going for a repeat of the stroke.
McCullum followed almost immediately, a mistimed sweep ending up in the safe hands of Muttiah Muralitharan. David Hussey did not last long either. He was brilliantly stumped down the leg side by MS Dhoni. Ashwin was now on a hat-trick, and should have had it, but for a rare blip by Simon Taufel, who could not spot the ball taking Angelo Mathews’ gloves on its way to the fielder. Still, Ashwin finished with memorable figures of 3 for 16. At the other end, Doug Bollinger beat Ganguly for pace and trapped him lbw for 10.
Everything was looking downhill for Kolkata. But, Mathews made use of the luck that came his way and helped his side gain some amount of control on the innings. He was particularly severe on his countrymate Murali, who was being recalled into the side. With two massive sixes off him, he made a run-a-ball 48 before Murali had his revenge. Following his departure, Laxmi Ratan Shukla blasted two sixes off Raina’s bowling to help his side post a target of 140 for the Super Kings.
The only way Kolkata could have won would have been if somebody did an Ashwin. But, while Gayle promised a little by cleaning up Hayden, whose slog sweep found the stumps, what followed was nothing short of disheartening for the bowling side. Raina began by caressing Ashok Dinda for three boundaries in his opening over.
And, when Gayle returned for this second over, he was hammered all over the place. As a result, Chennai reached their best score at the end of the powerplay overs during this edition, 67 for 1. All this while, Vijay, himself in belligerent form, was prepared to be silent spectator.
Raina cut, drove and lofted with ease and even when he mistimed his pulls, he made sure that the ball headed in the safest direction, over his keeper. Vijay joined in the act towards the end as Chennai cruised to victory and kept their semi-final hopes alive.
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