Chennai: Two Australians, Shane Watson and Mike Hussey, dictated the play when Chennai Super Kings hosted Rajasthan Royals at the MA Chidambaram Stadium on Monday (April 22), but it was Hussey who eventually had something to show for it, helping Chennai get across the line in a remarkable chase. It rendered Watson's knock of 101, the first century of this season, futile. Even 186 was not enough. (Read match stats.)
So far, in this tournament, talk has been about how Rajasthan's prowess is based on the balance of their team and not on outstanding individual performances. However, Watson delivered. His knock was helped by a shabby bowling display by Chennai, as apart from R Ashwin, the rest of the attack crumbled against some violent hitting. Ravindra Jadeja, in particular came in for a bashing, his three overs going for 45 without a wicket to show for his troubles. Ashwin was exemplary, though, and it prompted Mahendra Singh Dhoni, the captain, to use him up in a single spell. Had it not been for his 2 for 20, Chennai could have been much worse off. (Read how Watson found form in a losing cause)
That spell from Ashwin eventually proved crucial as the chase went right down to the wire. Chennai overcame the early loss of Murali Vijay, with Hussey and Suresh Raina putting up a 90-run stand. Their association proved the bedrock of the chase. The two raced to half-centuries, but even after Raina was dismissed, trapped plumb in front, Hussey took the attack to Rajasthan. He picked his spots and delivered with gusto, scoring adeptly on both sides of the wicket. (Watch: NDTV's post-match analysis)
The required rate quickly became manageable. Hussey was run out, having scored 88 off just 51, and Jadeja didn't last long, falling to James Faulkner. However, in Dhoni and Dwayne Bravo, Chennai had two fine finishers. Aided by some mis-fields and some frantic running, Chennai neared the target but Dhoni, having sustained an abdominal strain, holed out to the excellent Faulkner, who returned 3 for 20. But with 11 needed off the final over, a Bravo maximum and some desperate running helped Chennai to a nervous five-wicket win.
Earlier, Watson walked out to open and wasted no time, lifting his first six in just the third over - the first of plenty. The bowlers kept drifting down leg and Watson capitalised. Dhoni brought in the spinners, but it had no bearing on the run-rate, with one of Jadeja's overs going for 16 runs. (Match in pics)
It was then that Ashwin provided Chennai with some relief with two wickets in as many overs. He first had Ajinkya Rahane, who had done well in his supporting role, bowled with a slow, flighted delivery which had plenty of turn. He then got rid of Dishant Yagnik through extra bounce.
Rahul Dravid didn't last long either, leaving Rajasthan at 113 for 3, but Watson's powerful start ensured they had enough overs remaining with wickets to spare. He completed his century, scoring 101, but holed out to Dwayne Bravo soon after. However, Stuart Binny's 36 off 22 set Chennai a target of 186. It was a total which would have been enough on another occasion. But Hussey ensured it wasn't on the day.