Toss Chennai, chose to bat
Chennai Raina 63 n.o, Dhoni
45 n.o, Badrinath 34
Pune S Smith 35; M Sharma 3-21,
Man of the match MS Dhoni (Chennai)
Chennai avenged their loss to Pune at home earlier in the Indian Premier League by sealing a 37-run win, their sixth in a row, which consolidated their position at the top of the table.
For the best part of the Chennai innings, 140 looked the likely total. But with MS Dhoni smashing an unbeaten 16-ball 45, Chennai reached 164 for three and surpassing that was always going to be an uphill task for Pune.
Earlier, Pune made early inroads after Chennai opted to bat. Kane Richardson, playing in only his second game, dismissed Michael Hussey 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, played some sparkling strokes but was out for 13 in the sixth over.
S Badrinath and Raina then built a solid platform with a 75-run third-wicket stand before Badrinath fell after a well-crafted 34 in the quest to up the scoring rate. At that stage, Chennai were 103 for three with five overs left.
But that wicket signalled the turnaround for Chennai as Dhoni came in; 61 runs were blasted off the last five overs with the captain hitting four fours and three sixes, while Raina remained unbeaten on 63.
Aaron Finch, Pune's best batsman in IPL VI, and Robin Uthappa started aggressively, but Mohit Sharma, the young Haryana pacer, struck to dismiss Finch and T Suman off consecutive deliveries in the third over as Pune slipped to 26 for two. Uthappa was run out two balls later while Yuvraj Singh perished soon, chasing a wide delivery from Mohit, giving him his third wicket.
At 43 for four by the fifth over, the game was all but sealed. Steve Smith tried manfully, but wickets fell regularly at the other end and Smith, who made a valiant 35, eventually fell slapping one back to Ravindra Jadeja to end whatever little hope Pune had.
Bhuvneshwar Kumar (24) and Richardson (26) threw their bats around for a while, but that only served to delay the inevitable. With just two wins in 10 matches, Pune's run appears all but over, with their chances of making the knockouts not impossible, but quite improbable.
Shashank Kishore is subeditor at Wisden India.
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