Aaron Finch's blistering 67, Steven Smith's unbeaten cameo of 39 in his first match of the league, and Bhuvneshwar Kumar's 2 for 12 in four overs led Pune Warriors India to a much needed 24-run win against Chennai Super Kings at the MA Chidambaram Stadium in Chennai on Monday. (See pictures)
After having decided to bat first, Pune put up 159 for 5 and then bowled a restrictive line to keep Chennai down to 135 for 8 to register their second win in five matches in the Pepsi Indian Premier League 2013. (Match stats)
Chennai, just as they did against Royal Challengers Bangalore, got off to a poor start in their chase with Bhuvneshwar Kumar picking up two wickets in three overs. M Vijay, who was dropped by T Suman when on one, however, was unperturbed in his timing. He hit back-to-back boundaries off Ashok Dinda and then hit a six off Mitchell Marsh to get the innings moving. Abhishek Nayar, in his first over of the tournament, had him caught by Ross Taylor, the stand-in captain, at extra cover for 24. (Watch analysis)
That brought S Badrinath and Ravindra Jadeja together. They found the gaps, ran like hares and controlled the chase clinically with a 46-run partnership. However, Marsh struck twice in two overs to send them both back to the hut. Badrinath fell to an off cutter, caught by Smith at long-off for 34 and Jadeja's 22-ball innings fetched him 27. Read: Dhoni stunned after loss.
With the required run-rate climbing and Dwayne Bravo falling to Rahul Sharma, Albie Morkel hit a six to bring down the equation to 46 off the last three overs. But unlike in their last game, against Bangalore, there was no miracle in store. Dinda had Dhoni caught at long off and that effectively ended the pursuit.
In the first half of the evening, Aaron Finch and Robin Uthappa showed intent from the very second ball when Finch straight drove Dirk Nannes for a boundary. From then, until the pair was separated in the 13th over, it was a pure exhibition of explosive batting with Finch playing the lead.
They took calculated risks, punished the seamers every time they erred in line, and used their feet against the spinners. By the time Finch brought up his half-century in the ninth over, he had hit eight fours and a six. The partnership's domination forced Dhoni to introduce all five of his bowling options in the first ten overs.
Finch's 45-ball innings ended when he stepped out to Jadeja only for the ball to brush his pads and go between his legs for Dhoni to complete the stumping. He hit ten fours and a six.
His departure demanded Uthappa to step up on the pedal but he checked his shot off Chris Morris to give Jadeja an easy catch at long-on. The combination sent back Taylor, and with that the impact of the quickfire start was nullified. Pune could gather only 28 runs between 11 to 15 overs.
Had it not been for Steven Smith's 16-ball 39, graced by three fours and three sixes, Pune would have ended up with much less than the final total. In a match filled with eye catching shots Smith's reverse-swept six off Bravo in the final over took the honours of the evening. He rounded off a super day with three catches against his name. It was his statement of purpose and was enough for Pune to be back to winning ways.