You don't often come to the Sawai Mansingh Stadium in Jaipur, and expect to beat Rajasthan Royals. Not even if you're the IPL champions, or even the most successful side in Indian franchise cricket's short history. Chennai Super Kings did a good job to restrict Rajasthan to 159 for 8 in the first semifinal of the Champions League Twenty20 2013, and then refused to fold even when the chase seemed out of reach at 72 for 7. But against a collectively inspired Rajasthan bowling attack that never got the memo that they were supposed to be underdogs, Chennai fell short by 14 runs. (Scorecard | Highlights)
Chennai's famed top order floundered for the second match in a row, as Pravin Tambe, 42 years old next Tuesday and establishing himself as Rajasthan's best bowler in the tournament, turned on the magic with 3 for 10 in front of a roaring, adoring crowd on Friday (October 4). A rearguard action from R Ashwin (46 off 28) and Chris Morris (26 not out off 16) took Chennai close, but they finished on 145 for 8. (Tambe's experience and hard work paid off, says Rahul Dravid)
Tambe had come into the attack immediately after the power play overs, with Chennai 41 for 2, and proved difficult to pick from the start. Chennai had already lost Michael Hussey and M Vijay, the openers, both run out with good fielding and senseless running playing equal parts. Tambe then removed Badrinath in the eighth over, and the match hung in the balance as MS Dhoni walked out. (Stats: Tambe yet to concede a six in CLT20 as Rajasthan maintain perfect record at home)
Dhoni faced some uncomfortable moments against Tambe, but it was Rahul Shukla who got the big wicket in the next over, one relatively unknown Jharkand player trapping Dhoni, the state's most illustrious personality, in front to end a short stay, leaving Chennai 54 for 4 in the tenth over.
Suresh Raina, looking on as all fell around him, became Tambe's third victim in his final over after making 29 off 23 balls. At the end of Tambe's spell, Chennai had limped to 73 for 7 and needed an unlikely 87 to win from the final seven overs. Ashwin and Morris made a good fist of it, and in the final over, Rajasthan saw the worrying sight of Brad Hodge colliding with Shane Watson and limping off the field. Chennai's lower order, however, had simply been left with too much to do.
Earlier, their bowlers led by Dwayne Bravo (3 for 26) and Morris (2 for 25), in for Albie Morkel and playing his first match of the tournament, had done some good work to keep Rajasthan in check. Bravo stuck to a full leg-stump line that and showed remarkable discipline in never straying too far down. Morris hustled the batsmen with pace, and kept most balls to an unhittable length.
Ajinkya Rahane kept Rajasthan's innings afloat with his third consecutive fifty, playing the anchor's role to perfection. He fell for 70 off 56 in the final over, having picked off runs whenever the bowlers erred.
Rajasthan had gotten off to a shaky start with Rahul Dravid falling early to Morris. In a surprise move, Kevon Cooper came out next, as the crowd was treated to the rare sight of a pinch-hitter in a Twenty20 match. The move nearly came off, but Cooper was consumed by a Mohit Sharma slower ball after taking the bowler for a six and two fours.
When Sanju Samson fell thereafter, Rajasthan were 62 for 3 in the ninth over. That brought Rahane and Watson together for Rajasthan's best batting phase, a 59-run stand in 39 balls. The feature of the partnership was how the duo battled with Chennai's restrictive lines while never letting a scoring opportunity go.
Watson's fall in the 16th over set Rajasthan back, with Chennai bowling well in the final overs to deny the batsmen a final flourish. Only 18 came off the final three overs, as Rajasthan ended short of what they would have hoped for when they were 121 for 3 from 15 overs with Watson and Rahane at the crease.
As it turned out, they had just enough. They can and now prepare for their first CLT20 final in Delhi on Sunday.