Some sensible batting helped Chennai scale up the huge target of 186 with a five-wicket victory.
IPL: Watson's ton in vain for Rajasthan as Michael Hussey powers Chennai's big chase
Toss Rajasthan, chose to bat
Rajasthan Watson 101, Binny 36; Ashwin 2-20
Chennai M Hussey 88, Raina 51; Faulkner 3-20, Chandila 1-16
Man of the match Michael Hussey (Chennai)
Two Australians, Shane Watson and Mike Hussey, dictated the play when Chennai Super Kings hosted Rajasthan Royals at the MA Chidambaram Stadium, but it was Hussey who eventually had something to show for it, helping Chennai claim an unprecedented five-wicket victory in what was a remarkable chase.
It rendered Watson’s knock of 101, the first century of the Indian Premier League, futile, even though it helped Rajasthan set a mammoth target of 186.
So far in this tournament, talk has been about how Rajasthan prowess is based on the balance of their team and not on the outstanding individuals. However, Watson raised his hands up and delivered. His knock was helped by a shabby bowling display by Chennai, as apart from R Ashwin, the rest of the attack crumbled against some violent hitting.
Ravindra Jadeja in particular came in for a bashing, his three overs going for 45 without a wicket to show for his troubles. Ashwin was exemplary though and it prompted MS Dhoni, the captain, to use him up in a single spell. Had it not been for his 2 for 20, Chennai could have been much worse off.
That spell from Ashwin eventually proved crucial as the chase went right down to the wire. Chennai overcame the early loss of Murali Vijay, with Hussey and Suresh Raina putting up a 90-run stand.
Their association proved the bedrock of the chase. The two raced to half-centuries, but even after Raina was dismissed, trapped plumb in front when attempting an improvised shot, Hussey took the attack to Rajasthan. He picked his spots and delivered with gusto, scoring adeptly on both sides of the wicket.
The required rate quickly became manageable. Hussey was run out, having scored 88 off just 51, and Jadeja did not last long, falling to James Faulkner. However, in Dhoni and Dwayne Bravo, Chennai had two fine finishers.
Aided by some misfields, Chennai neared the target but Dhoni, having sustained an abdominal strain, holed out to the excellent Faulkner, who returned 3 for 20. But with 11 needed off the final over, a Bravo maximum and some frantic running helped Chennai to another nervous win.
Earlier, Watson walked out to open and wasted no time, lifting his first six in just the third over – the first of plenty. The bowlers kept drifting it down leg and Watson kept replying with a pull over square-leg region. Dhoni brought in the spinners, but it had no bearing on the run-rate, with one of Jadeja’s overs going for 16 runs.
It was then that Ashwin provided Chennai with some reprieve with two wickets in as many overs. He first had Ajinkya Rahane, who had done well in his supporting role, bowled with a slow, flighted delivery which had plenty of turn. He then rendered the experiment with Dishant Yagnik, promoted to No. 3, unsuccessful, deceiving him with bounce.
Rahul Dravid did not last long either, leaving Rajasthan at 113 for 3, but Watson’s powerful start ensured they had enough overs remaining with wickets to spare. He completed his century, scoring 101, but holed out to Dwayne Bravo soon after.
However, Stuart Binny (36 off 22) launched a late assault to set Chennai a target of 186. It was a total which would have been enough on another occasion. But Hussey ensured it was not to be.
Manoj Narayan is a subeditor with Wisden India.