It's rare that the Chennai Super Kings batting collapses twice in a row. It's even rarer that they blow a high-pressure match. Normally, Chennai seem imbued with the same sense of calm and composure that MS Dhoni, the captain, radiates. But on Friday (October 4), they ran into a red-hot Rajasthan Royals side in the first semifinal of the Champions League Twenty20 2013. Rajasthan defended a par score of 159 for 8 with tigerish resolve in the field to reach their maiden CLT20 final.
Rajasthan thus maintained a perfect 13-0 record at the Sawai Mansingh Stadium in Jaipur in 2013 as Chennai, reduced to 72 for 7 at one point, finished 14 runs short on 145 for 8.
"There wasn't a sense of calmness when the batsmen went out there," said Stephen Fleming, the Chennai coach. "They bowled well and we didn't respond accordingly. We gave wickets away through run outs which is annoying with good players. And we just never had our composure. You could almost sense that the batsmen were panicking, when this team has prided itself on its composure. That was unusual and not an ideal time for it to take place. It could have been the fact that we were desperate for another final.
"When you lose composure, you succumb to pressure," added Fleming. "When you're under pressure, you've got two ways to deal with it: you either soak it up until it's your turn, or you succumb to it. Unfortunately, today we succumbed."
Chennai's bowlers did well on a batting friendly pitch to restrict Rajasthan, with only 18 runs conceded in the last three overs. However, the start of Chennai's chase was shaky, with uncertain running between the wickets resulting in M Vijay and Mike Hussey, the two openers, being run out.
"I thought it was a good first half of the game. They have got a good side on this track and were set up to get possibly 180," said Fleming. "The last three or four overs were excellent and it has been a strength of ours. We were delighted to walk off chasing 160, but the second half wasn't so good. They set the tone for the first six to 10 overs and we never really got our calmness back."
Chennai played three matches in Ranchi before playing a match each in Delhi and Jaipur, but Fleming said adjusting to different venues didn't play a part in the side's loss.
"We didn't cope very well in Delhi, that was a fact. We thought this pitch was more suited to us. It had a little bit more pace in it, so in some ways we were happy coming to these conditions," said Fleming. "The IPL has conditioned us to playing in different locations and we're very comfortable playing at this ground. We knew Rajasthan were very good here, but we also thought we had a good chance with the style of cricket we play. We just played poorly."
While not happy with his team's showing, Fleming was quick to praise Rajasthan and the "outstanding" Pravin Tambe, who bowled an uninterrupted four-over spell in the middle overs that netted him 3 for 10.
"I thought his bowling was very instrumental in stopping our run-rate and also taking key wickets. Rajasthan are a smart cricket side, they're well led," acknowledged Fleming. "They haven't won 13 matches here in a row for no reason and they're deserving of getting through to the final. So while we'll be critical of ourselves, we also must doff the cap to them."
Tambe, who will turn 42 on October 8, revealed Rajasthan's plan was to attack from the start and it paid off. "Our plan was to attack and we stuck to it and reaped the benefits," he said. "You always face pressure in chasing if one or two wickets fall, and we got those early wickets. I was landing the ball on the line I wanted to today."