Chennai Super Kings vs. Kolkata Knight Riders, IPL: 5 Things We Learned
Chennai Super Kings won their fifth match in a row in the seventh edition of the Indian Premier League by beating the Kolkata Knight Riders by 34 runs at the JSCA Stadium, Ranchi, on Friday.
Chennai's superb all-round form continued in the tournament, and the two-time champions look unstoppable after their only defeat so far in the opening match of the season against Kings XI Punjab.
Kolkata, on the other hand, lost their third match in a row and have now won just two out of their first six games this season.
Here are five things we learned during this match:
Can Anyone Stop This Chennai Juggernaut?
Five wins in a row and there seems to be no stopping the Chennai Express this IPL. Their opening loss to Punjab (read Glenn Maxwell) seems a distant memory now; they appear to have brushed it aside and moved on really well.
What is most impressive about this Chennai outfit is how consistent it is each and every season, even with the unavoidable changes in the squad due to the mandatory player auctions. The team management has done well to retain the nucleus of the team, and all their additions and changes have only helped them reach for the skies.
Chennai's strategy has changed a bit from the past seasons where they used to get off to a steady start and then pick up their rate in the last third of the innings. However, when you've got Brendon McCullum and Dwayne Smith as your openers, a slow and steady start should be far from expectations.
It has worked for them, and how! The new opening combination provide them with the perfect rollicking start, while the rest of the formidable batting line-up, which includes Suresh Raina, MS Dhoni, Faf du Plessis and Ravindra Jadeja, pick up from where they left off.
This is then followed by an equally talented bowling line-up, with the likes of Mohit Sharma, Ishwar Pandey, Ravichandran Ashwin and Jadeja all in prime form.
Ever since they lost all-rounder Dwayne Bravo early in the tournament to injury, Chennai haven't had the need to tamper with their combination. This consistency in their line-up has surely helped them make headway, and as things stand, there really doesn't seem to be any way of stopping them.
Kolkata Do Not Have a Steady Opening Pair
In their six games so far this season, Kolkata have tried out four opening pairs: Gautam Gambhir and Jacques Kallis, Manish Pandey and Kallis, Gambhir and Manvinder Bisla, and Gambhir and Robin Uthappa.
The highest return by these combinations has been 21 runs.
KKR need to maintain some consistency at the top of their order and give a particular opening pair at least two-three games to settle in. Their prime concern in this area has been the form of their captain, Gambhir, who has struggled for runs, but he kept his place in the side, while ironically shuffling around his opening partner.
Fifty-two runs in six matches, 45 of which were scored in one game itself, is not a stat that should be associated with the captain of a team, and KKR have some tough decisions to take before their next match.
Whether Gambhir is dropped or not, and evidence suggests he should, KKR need to find a consistent opening pair. If Gambhir is indeed dropped, playing the experienced Kallis and in-form Uthappa at the top could be the combination they are looking for.
The Race for the Purple Cap Is in the CSK Team
Following Friday's match, the "Purple Cap" list for the leading wicket-taker in the tournament is being headed by Chennai's Mohit Sharma with 11 wickets, followed by Ravindra Jadeja with 10.
The duo have easily been the season's most consistent bowlers, especially Sharma who cannot seem to get anything wrong. The Indian fast bowler has thoroughly impressed with his accuracy and tops it off with a superb slower delivery. In six matches, he has recorded a four-for and a three-four.
Jadeja, on the other hand, has two four-wicket hauls to his name and has usurped Ravichandran Ashwin to be the team's leading spin bowler. On Friday, he made superb use of the slow turning track at Ranchi and recorded his best of four for 12.
These two Chennai lads have made the race for the Purple Cap a two-horse CSK affair, for now at least. Can Sunil Narine, Varun Aaron or anyone else compete with them?
It Is the Season of No-Ball Wickets
In the 16th over of Chennai's innings on Friday, Kolkata's spinner Sunil Narine struck Jadeja plumb in front and appealed for leg before and was given out by the umpire.
However, as is the norm nowadays, the officials rechecked for a no-ball with the television umpire, and would you believe it, Narine had indeed overstepped.
This made it the fourth time in the season that a bowler had been denied a wicket due to overstepping, which is an interesting statistic. Before Narine, Darren Sammy, Morne Morkel and Shane Watson had all been on the receiving end of a cruel rejection.
How many more are we going to see this season?
Bowlers, Keep Your Towel Fastened Tight!
In a bizarre occurrence, Kolkata spinner Shakib Al Hasan, who opened the bowling on Friday, was also denied a wicket. Shakib seemed to have had Chennai's Dwayne Smith stumped, but he was surprised to see the umpire signal a dead-ball.
What had happened was that Shakib's hand towel, which was attached to his waistband, had fallen off while he was in his run-up. According to the rules, that is a dead-ball!
Fortunately for Shakib, he wasn't to rue his error much longer, as he had Smith dismissed a couple of balls later again, and this time it was a legitimate delivery.
However, it was a good lesson for bowlers to keep their towels fastened tight to their waistbands to avoid instances such as this one.