Chennai Super Kings (138/4) were unable to book their ticket to the 2014 Indian Premier League play-offs on Sunday, losing to Bangalore Royal Challengers (142/5) by five wickets on a slow pitch that greatly favoured strong bowling over explosive batting.
With the win, Royal Challengers move level on points with fourth-placed Kolkata Knight Riders, keeping their play-off hopes alive.
Super Kings won the toss and elected to bat, hoping to score some runs early to combat the slow track. Without Faf du Plessis in the order, David Hussey made his debut in the 2014 IPL.
|Dwayne Smith||c AB de Villiers b Varun Aaron||9||15||60.00||1||0|
|Brendon McCullum||c Mitchell Starc b Varun Aaron||19||13||146.15||1||2|
|Suresh Raina||NOT OUT||62||48||129.16||6||1|
|David Hussey||c Mitchell Starc b Muttiah Muralitharan||25||29||86.20||1||1|
|MS Dhoni||c Chris Gayle b Abu Nechim||7||6||116.66||1||0|
|Ravindra Jadeja||NOT OUT||10||9||111.11||0||0|
|EXTRAS||(w 3, lb 3)||6|
|TOTAL||(4 wickets; 20 overs)||138|
Bangalore's group of bowlers came out in dominant fashion, limiting Dwayne Smith to just nine runs from 15 balls and Brendon McCullum to 19 from 13. The duo had been Chennai's two top run scorers in IPL7, and their early dismissals meant other batsmen would have to step up.
Suresh Raina's 62 from 48 not out couldn't have come at a better time, but when MS Dhoni was dismissed after just six balls, the situation started to look bleak.
Abu Nechim stole the show for Bangalore, giving up just 18 runs in four overs, while Mitchell Starc was also very solid with 23 runs given up in four.
More importantly, Royal Challengers' fielding was excellent, as Aditya pointed out:
Weird innings from CSK. Many length balls weren't dismissed to boundary at death. Scored just 138 after losing 4 wkts. Unusual T20 innings.— Aditya (@forwardshortleg) May 18, 2014
ESPN Cricinfo added their take:
With the target set at 139, Chris Gayle got to work with 46 runs off 50 balls, while Virat Kohli added 27 off 29 and Man of the Match AB de Villiers scored 28 off 14. Chennai's slow bowlers did a great job of limiting the big hits, however, giving up just eight sixes all afternoon.
|Chris Gayle||b Ravichandran Ashwin||46||50||92.00||3||3|
|Parthiv Patel||c Suresh Raina b Ravichandran Ashwin||10||14||71.42||2||0|
|Virat Kohli||st MS Dhoni b Ravindra Jadeja||27||29||93.10||1||1|
|AB de Villiers||c Ravindra Jadeja b David Hussey||28||14||200.00||1||3|
|Yuvraj Singh||NOT OUT||13||9||144.44||0||1|
|Sachin Rana||c Brendon McCullum b David Hussey||1||2||50.00||0||0|
|Abu Nechim||NOT OUT||4||1||400.00||1||0|
|EXTRAS||(w 4, b 1, lb 8)||13|
|TOTAL||(5 wickets; 19.5 overs)||142|
Ravichandran Ashwin (four overs, 16 runs, two wickets), Raina (four overs, 20 runs) and Samuel Badree (three overs, 15 runs) did a superb job dragging out the chase, before Ravindra Jadeja really stepped up his play in the 19th, as shared by Freddie Wilde:
The match looked like it would be coming down to just a handful of deliveries, at which point Super Kings made an odd decision—to let Hussey bowl the final over in his first start in IPL7. Freddie Wilde couldn't believe it:
Hussey would take his second wicket of the match but also give up 13 runs, including the deciding four, on the second-to-last ball and the first delivery to Abu Nechim.
De Villiers told ESPN Cricinfo the wicket was very hard to play on, while also stating he didn't expect to win the Man of the Match award:
Probably one of the most difficult wickets that I played on. Surprised, I thought I was going to get one of these interesting awards and Abu was going to get Man of the Match. I got some of the balls away. I looked foolish a couple of times and took it to the end. I was disappointed to get out at the time, but Yuvi did it for us in the end.
Kohli agreed it was a very difficult match, crediting his team's mentality in the win:
They've gone already. Great win for us, especially after the wicket played in the second innings. Today was a great example of the character in the side. You have Gayle hitting out there, then AB and Yuvi in such for, you back your team. It was about rotating strike as much as possible and hitting with the turn and not trying something fancy. Because with the old ball, it wasn't turning as much so you can stay on the back foot and work it away. No message, Yuvi told me he wanted Nechim to get a single, but he just stepped out and slammed the ball for six. That's the belief players have now.
Chennai missed a chance to take sole possession of the top spot in the standings, and the team still needs to win at least one match to mathematically confirm their spot in the play-offs (unless one of Bangalore or Kolkata loses in the coming days).
The loss will have been particularly painful as it could have easily been avoided by playing a bowler in better form than Hussey, who had no business dealing with the pressure of the final over.
The lack of production from Gayle and McCullum is something that hardly ever happens, so Super Kings shouldn't have to worry too much about that going into the play-offs.
Bangalore really helped themselves with an eye on the play-offs, but they still trail Kolkata on net run rate. The top three seems out of reach for either team, so it will be a straight race for fourth between these two teams.
All of this makes their head-to-head on Tuesday must-see television, as the winners of that match will have their fate in their own hands the rest of the way.
Both teams play with a nice balance, with the advantage in batting going to Bangalore and Kolkata holding the edge with their bowlers. If Bangalore's group of bowlers play like they did against Chennai, however, there will be little Kolkata can do to stop their opponents from entering the top four.