The authoritative 57-ball innings was laced with nine hits to the fence and a huge six as he crossed the 500-run mark in CLT20. It was also Raina’s 25th half-century in the shortest format, apart from two centuries.
However, it was the Chennai skipper Mahendra Singh Dhoni who stole the limelight with some brutal hitting towards the end of the innings to the entertainment of his home crowd as he brought up the fastest fifty in CLT20. His 16-ball effort overtook Kieron Pollard’s 18-ball 50. Dhoni finished with an unbeaten 63 off 19 balls.
Just before the match began, it was not surprising to know why the Jharkhand State Cricket Association Stadium (JSCA) witnessed a rather good crowd as compared to the other stadiums during the tournament. Even before the start of the match, Dhoni and his hairstyle was a bigger talking point than anything else in the stadium.
It was a critical toss that Sunrisers skipper Shikhar Dhawan won as the dew was expected to play a crucial role in the match.
Although the ground staff had applied the anti-dew spray on the grass; it wasn’t good enough to stop dew from forming even before the match began. With temperature around 26 degree Celsius at the start of the match and expected to fall from thereon, it was obvious that the team batting second would hold a clear advantage.
Ian Bishop, who did the pitch report stated that the pitch was quite damp. Although there was enough grass on one end, the Pavilion End was devoid of the green cover and good enough for the ball to hold on.
Sunrisers couldn’t have expected a better start after electing to field. Even as their bowling attack looked good in the tournament, they would’ve expected more out of their lead bowler Dale Steyn who wasn’t finding the kind of rhythm he would’ve wanted. However, just in the second ball of the innings, he bowled a peach of a delivery that moved just late enough to find the outside edge of Murali Vijay’s bat and was safely taken by the Dhawan, who was stationed at first slip. He followed it up with two more good deliveries before straying on Raina’s pad, which was sent smoothly to the square leg boundary. He then played another exquisite on-drive off the next ball for another boundary.
With good bounce being extracted from the pitch, Steyn continued to swing the ball at a speed hovering around mid-140 kmph.
Michael Hussey and Raina did a good recovery act for the second wicket. Even as the innings was progressing steadily till the fifth over, Hussey chose to accelerate as he pulled a poor delivery by Ishant Sharma straight to the stands behind deep mid-wicket and took Chennai to 44 without any further damage at the end of the powerplay.
The running too, not surprisingly, was quick and smart between the duo. Karan Sharma dropped a tough chance of Hussey, who slashed a delivery outside off towards point in the fourth over. The dropped chance came at the back of Sunrisers’ intent to improve their fielding standards following the disastrous display against Trinidad and Tobago.
However, Hussey was undone by the part-time spinner JP Duminy who was introduced in the seventh over. In the second ball itself, he gripped the ball and generated sharp turn to find the left-hander’s outside edge which was smartly taken by Parthiv Patel to end their 44-run alliance. However, Raina ensured that the scorecard kept moving at a decent pace in company of Subramaniam Badrinath to take the score to 69 for two at the mid-way mark. While Raina was full of powerful cuts and graceful drives, Badrinath, CSK’s most under-rated player, continued to collect runs in singles and handed over the strike to the set batsman. Raina hit a flick past fine-leg for a boundary to bring up a half-century in 38 balls.
As the innings progressed, the hand towels had more utility as the bowlers found it tough to grip the ball. Thisara Perera, realised it soon as while trying to get the ball fuller, it slipped from his hand and went extremely wide for a boundary without giving the wicketkeeper any chance of stopping it. Steyn too, struggled to get the grip in his second spell.
Meanwhile, Hyderabad’s fielding woes continued as Hanuma Vihari too dropped a catch of Raina soon after he reached the 50-run mark. However, not much damage was done, as it was declared a no-ball for being above the waist height. Misfielding, too wasn’t a rare sight during the innings.
Just as Chennai were put in a dominant position, Dhawan introduced Duminy back into the attack in the 15th over. The move worked again as he managed to dismiss Badrinath off the first ball of the over. However, that brought out the loudest cheer from the crowd as local boy Dhoni walked out to bat. The Chennai skipper didn’t wait too long to entertain the crowd as he used his strong wrists to muscle a straight six of just his second ball. From thereon he was dealing mostly in sixes, as he smashed seven more in his 19-ball innings, the biggest of them crossing 101 metres, including five sixes in the 18th over off Perera. His unbeaten knock of 63 helped Chennai go past the 200-run mark.
Chennai Super Kings 202 for 4 in 20 overs (Suresh Raina 84, MS Dhoni 63*; Dale Steyn 2 for 23) vs Sunrisers Hyderabad
(Aayush Puthran is a reporter with CricketCountry. Mercurially jovial, pseudo pompous, perpetually curious and occasionally confused, he is always up for a light-hearted chat over a few cups of filter kaapi!)