It is often assumed that when a team has hit rock bottom, things can't get worse. But sadly for Pune Warriors India that was far from the truth as they were in for another hammering. Chennai Super Kings avenged their loss to Pune at home with a 37-run victory at the Subrata Roy Sahara Stadium on Tuesday night (April 30). This was Chennai's sixth consecutive win in the Indian Premier League 2013, and with eight wins in 10 matches, they consolidated their position at the top of the points table.
For the best part of Chennai's innings, it looked like Pune might just be able to keep them to total below 140. But once Chennai crossed 160, largely due to a blistering unbeaten 16-ball 45 by Mahendra Singh Dhoni, it was always going to be an uphill task for Pune. (Also see: Match in pics)
Pune made early inroads after Chennai opted to bat. Kane Richardson, playing in his second game, struck to dismiss Michael Hussey (5) in the third over, forcing Suresh Raina and Wriddhiman Saha to adopt a cautious approach. Saha, who was lucky to survive a close leg before appeal on nought, threatened to fire with a couple of sparkling strokes but when he was out for 13 in the sixth over, Chennai went into damage control mode. (All the stats from the match)
Subramaniam Badrinath, who has been their go-to man during a crisis, batted in a sedate manner, milking the bowling in Raina's company. The duo built a solid platform with a 75-run stand for the third wicket before Badrinath fell for a well crafted 34 in the quest to play the big shots. At that stage, Chennai were 103 for three in 15.2 overs.
In many ways, that wicket signaled the turnaround for Chennai as it allowed Dhoni to come in and up the tempo. Ashok Dinda and Kane Richardson, who had bowled well till then, were sent on a leather hunt. 61 runs were blasted off the last five overs with Dhoni smashing four fours and three sixes, while Raina finished unbeaten on 63 as Chennai ended with 164 for 3 in 20 overs.
For a side searching for inspiration, either the in-form Aaron Finch, who has made each of the side's three 50-plus scores this season, or Yuvraj Singh had to take charge. Finch and Robin Uthappa started aggressively but that didn't last long. Mohit Sharma, the Haryana pacer, struck to dismiss Finch and T Suman off consecutive deliveries in the third over as Pune slipped to 26 for two. (Also watch: NDTV experts blast Pune's performance)
Uthappa (10) was run-out two balls later while Yuvraj (5) perished soon after, chasing a wide delivery from Sharma. At 43 for 4 in the fifth over, the game was nearly sealed. Steve Smith tried manfully, as he has done on most occasions, but the wickets that kept falling at the other end didn't help his cause. He made a valiant 35 before slapping one back to Ravindra Jadeja to diminish whatever little hopes Pune had.
Bhuvneshwar Kumar (24) and Richardson (26) threw their bat around briefly but Pune needed at least one batsman to anchor the chase with another to provide the impetus. When that didn't happen, their fate was sealed well before the contest laboured to a close.
With just two wins from ten matches, the remaining six matches are now reduced to a mere formality for Pune, who don't even have the slimmest of mathematical chances of remaining in contention for a berth in the playoffs.