In T20 games, one wicket can often swing the momentum of even a one-sided match. And the opening game of the Indian Premier League between Chennai Super Kings and Kolkata Knight Riders witnessed something similar. Chasing a modest 154 for victory, Kolkata were cruising at 93 for 1 in the 13th over when Yusuf Pathan was brilliantly run out by a direct hit from who else but the man with the Midas touch, M S Dhoni. Prior to that, Manvinder Bisla and Jacques Kallis had got the team off to a flying start, adding 64 for the opening wicket inside nine overs before the former was stumped off Shadab Jakati’s bowling. Even when Yusuf left the target was more than achievable for KKR, but his dismissal began a procession of wickets, which ended in a heartbreaking two-run loss for the Shah Rukh Khan-owned franchise.
Kallis, who had till then batted in a sublime manner as expected of him, fell going for a cheeky paddle sweep. Ravichandran Ashwin once again getting the key wicket. The South African batted with aplomb and looked at ease during his half-century until an unnecessary attempt to prove that he too can bat T20 style led to his untimely downfall. By this time, Dhoni’s moves had, not surprisingly, began to work their wonders. The dangerous Eoin Morgan was stumped Dhoni in the 17th over as the equation kept getting tougher for KKR. And, as if to make matters worse, skipper Gautam Gambhir relived his crazy run-out moment against Australia in the World Cup as Kolkata plunged into further trouble.
With 33 needed off the last three overs and their men gone Chennai looked favourites, but just like a wicket can turn things around in this format of the game so can one big over. And Kolkata got one such in the penultimate over bowled by Sri Lankan Suraj Randiv. Laxmi Ratan Shukla first reverse-swept him to the boundary ropes following which Manoj Tiwary hit to massive sixes on the leg side. KKR were back in the contest and with a bag. However, there was further drama in store as Randiv dismissed Tiwary off the last ball of his over to keep Chennai in the hunt as well.
Nine were needed off the last over, but Tim Southee only conceded six. He was bowled a tight previous over as well, but it was undoubtedly the last over which the Chennai fans would cherish more. Shukla perished trying to finish off the game for KKR, which meant too much was expected of Iqbal Abdulla and Rajat Bhatia, especially when perfect yorker after yorker was being fired at them. Eventually, Dhoni’s charm worked.
It hadn’t looked the case when the defending champions put up a mere 153 on board, which was thanks to a mature effort by Srikkanth Anirudha, who slammed 64 off 55 balls as the others around him struggled. Raina and Dhoni did play good cameos, but their strike rates weren’t lightning by T20 standards. In the end, if they managed to cross 150 it was due to a couple of big hits by Albie Morkel towards the end of the innings. It was enough for Dhoni and his men to eke out a close victory.
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