Chennai Super Kings maintained their stronghold at the top of the IPL 2019 table after securing a hard-fought five-wicket win over Kolkata Knight Riders at the Eden Gardens on Sunday.
KKR posted a healthy 161-8 thanks to a marvellous 82 from Chris Lynn after Chennai veteran leg-spinner Imran Tahir broke their back by picking up 4-27.
The chase was always going to be tricky as the wicket had slowed down by evening. Sunil Narine (2-19) kept a lid on the scoring but Suresh Raina (58 not out of 42 balls) used his experience to take the match until the end and clinch victory with two balls to spare.
It was the seventh win for CSK after eight games. They are just the third team to win seven out of their first eight games after Kings XI Punjab in 2014 and Mumbai Indians in 2010.
Lynn class apart
It was a pitch on which every Kolkata batsman struggled for timing. Even the usually unforgiving Narine – back in the playing XI – was tied down by the surface that offered grip to seamers and spinners. He laboured to two off seven balls before falling to the variety of the bowler he generally feasts on – left-arm spinner Mitchell Santner.
While the rest of the top order struggled to up the ante, Lynn – the second KKR player returning to the team – seemed to be batting on a different surface. He targeted the 14th over bowled by Ravindra Jadeja to get a move on, depositing the left-arm spinner for three successive sixes.
His 82 off 51 balls with seven fours and six sixes was in stark contrast to the efforts of the rest of the batting line-up that had to fight tooth and nail to push the total past 160.
Tahir at it again
Chennai leg-spinner Tahir has benefited from bowling on surfaces that have offered turn and bounce. But credit to the 40-year-old for being on the money every single time.
Tahir took four wickets for 27, with three caught down the ground and one at deep square leg. While his wicket of Lynn was crucial, his biggest scalp came in the same 15th over in the form of Andre Russell. Wicket at that time saved at least 25 runs for Chennai.
Russell’s off day
Kolkata superstar Russell has been on top of his game so far in IPL 2019. But Sunday just wasn’t his day. First he failed to get going with the bat and then with the ball, was spanked for four consecutive boundaries by Chennai opener Faf du Plessis in his only over.
And just to cap a miserable day, Russell hobbled off the ground with what looked like a heel problem. With the Caribbean all-rounder already nursing knee and wrist issues, it was a terrible outing.
Raina holds fort
For a while now Jadeja the batsman in white ball cricket hasn’t been a force, hopefully today’s innings gives him the necessary confidence to become one.👍#CSKvKKR— Sanjay Manjrekar (@sanjaymanjrekar) April 14, 2019
Raina is a master of batting on sticky pitches. He likes to hang back and nudge the ball around, which is ideal on surfaces the ball is stopping. After surviving an lbw shout against Harry Gurney at the start, Raina gauged the pace of the wicket quickly.
Five of Raina’s boundaries were late flicks and dabs on either side of the keeper, which proved that it was a pitch for deft touches and not power down the ground. The veteran southpaw eased his way to 58 off 42 and left it to Jadeja (31* off 17) to take risks.
Jadeja went after KKR’s death specialist Gurney by taking three straight boundaries off him in the penultimate over to bring the equation down from 24 off 12 to eight off the final over. It was just a formality thereafter.
Sunrisers Hyderabad will be looking to snap their two game losing run when they take on an energised Delhi Capitals at home on Sunday.
Sunrisers’ middle order has been exposed in the last two games and they can’t keep relying on David Warner forever as the Aussie, along with Englishman Jonny Bairstow, is likely to leave the team for World Cup preparations soon.
Delhi will be relying on their gun pace attack led by Kagiso Rabada to unsettle Hyderabad.
Who will come out on top tonight? Catch the live updates below.
Kolkata Knight Riders were manhandled by Chennai Super Kings a week ago – but now they get to play them on their own patch.
Eden Gardens plays hosts to a top-of-the-table IPL clash as MS Dhoni and Co head to Kolkata looking for their seventh win from eight games.
KKR meanwhile are looking to arrest a two-game losing skid, as the IPL’s MVP thus far, Andre Russell, looks for support from his team-mates.
Catch the live ball-by-ball updates below …