Chennai: Was it over-confidence or just plain bad thinking on Mahendra Singh Dhoni's part that he sent Wriddhiman Saha in to bat at number four? Saha scored just six from 14 balls, but more crucially, he threw the Chennai Super Kings chase completely off gear. So much so that Kings XI Punjab's rather sorry looking 156 for 8 suddenly looked imposing. And in the end, the defending champions fell short by seven runs.
Adam Gilchrist's injury had upset the balance of the Kings XI batting order, leading to Mandeep Singh opening with Nitin Saini in the past few matches. Against Chennai, Kings XI finally got it right by pushing Shaun Marsh to open with Mandeep, and that seemed to give Mandeep the confidence that he needed. (Also see: Match in pics)
As long as Marsh was around, Mandeep batted freely, keeping the scoring rate around the eight-an-over mark. But he seemed to go into his shell once Marsh fell and Azhar Mahmood came in to take charge. Azhar slammed Ravindra Jadeja for two sixes in an over before becoming the second wicket to fall. This, in fact, threw the Kings XI effort off track. The wickets started to fall, and though he eventually reached his half century, Mandeep failed to get the scoring rate moving as the sweltering Chennai heat seemed to have a say.
At one stage, Kings XI looked good to get a score in the region of 175. But with the batsmen slowing down and Dhoni rotating his bowlers constantly, the flow of runs dried up. The middle-order failed to fire, and all the team could manage was 156.
It didn't look like it would be enough when the Chennai reply took off with Faf du Plessis and Subramanian Badrinath. While the two were there, runs came easily, and the asking rate was well within reach. But Mahmood's introduction into the attack made all the difference as he sent back du Plessis and Badrinath in successive overs. Piyush Chawla came to the fore after that, accounting for Suresh Raina and, later, Jadeja. And with Saha fluffing his lines, suddenly, there was panic in the ranks.
Dhoni's unfortunate dismissal, when he inside-edged a Bhargav Bhatt delivery and took off for a run to be caught short by wicketkeeper Saini, was the final nail. Albie Morkel, Dwayne Bravo and the rest of the lower order fought, but were always up against it. And in the end, Chennai finished their innings seven runs short. An unlikely result, and a loss against the unlikeliest of opponents. Dhoni's gamble with Saha might be the biggest reason for the reversal.