Dhoni, Bravo keep Chennai’s winning streak intact despite Rajasthan’s late surge

Rajasthan skipper Ajinkya Rahane had lady luck shining on him when he won the toss and put Chennai in to bat on a tricky MA Chidambaram Stadium in Match 12 of the Indian T20 League, and his team rode on that initial luck to reduce the three-time champions to 27/3 by the fifth over. (ALSO READ: Recap – Chennai vs Rajasthan)

However, that luck ran out rather abruptly in the next over when a Jofra Archer length delivery was dragged back on to the stumps by the new batsman; but the bails weren’t dislodged. What was very unfortunate for Rajasthan and Archer was, not only they were denied a wicket, but they were denied the wicket of a certain MS Dhoni, who was yet to open his account. (SCORECARD: Chennai vs Rajasthan)

And then, Dhoni capitalised on the lucky reprieve to finish unbeaten on 75 off 46 balls, powering Chennai to 175/5 – and that was, most certainly the game for the home team.

However, pardon the  cliche, the game of glorious uncertainties almost provided one of the greatest escapes of the Indian T20 League history with power-hitters Ben Stokes (46 off 26) and Archer (24* off 11) making a match out of it with some brutal hitting and smart T20 batting. The duo added 44 off 18 balls for the seventh wicket.  

With 56 need off 24 balls, Rajasthan lost Krishnappa Gowtham for nine, but Archer managed to hit a six and took 12 runs off the over. The 17th, bowled by Bravo, went for 19 with Stokes tonking a slower one for six and then a four. Archer then plonked one straight over the bowler’s head for a maximum.

With 25 needed off 12, Rajasthan suddenly found themselves in the game. Stokes’ one handed swipe behind square for a six helped Rajasthan take 13 runs of Shardul Thakur’s final over – the 19th over the match. The equation was down to 12 off six balls, but the first delivery of the final over had Stokes hitting a full toss to Raina at cover, more importantly Archer remained at the non-striker’s end. In the end, Bravo’s experience shone through in the final five deliveries as he conceded just three runs in the over, helping Chennai escape with an eight-run win.

In chase, Rajasthan lost way early losing their top-three for single digits, and found themselves 14/3 by the 4th over. Deepak Chahar  picked two of them to finish with 2/19 from his four overs. Rahul Tripathi played an enterprising knock of 39 off 24 balls before Imran Tahir (2/23) had him lobbing a simple return catch in the 10th over. Rajasthan were dented further when the South African accounted for Steve Smith, holed out at long-on off a full toss for 28. But Stokes and Archer took their team close.  

But, the night belonged to Dhoni, who rolled back years, with a clinical innings which was split in two halves. His first 38 runs came off 34 balls, largely in an effort to revive the Chennai innings alongside his trusted deputy Suresh Raina, who made 32 off 36 balls. The duo combined for 51 off 53 balls after the team had lost Ambati Rayudu – to an Archer slower bouncer for one, Shane Watson – presenting a simple catch at short third man for 13 – and Kedar Jadhav for eight, caught behind.

Raina then departed to Jaydev Unadkat in the 13th over. Bravo started the action with two fours off Stokes. Dhoni, at the other end, raced and clubbed his next 37 runs off just 12 balls. The assault started with a six over extra cover off Dhawal Kulkarni in the 18th over. Bravo added a four and a six in the same over to take 24 runs off of the 18th over.

A four off Archer – by Dhoni followed in the next over, but Chennai lost Bravo for 27 off 16 balls, as the Barbados-born player gave away eight runs. Unadkat, Rajasthan’s death over specialist and their INR 8.4 crore buy was taken apart the way only Dhoni could – four sixes, three off the last three balls – all from Dhoni’s bat – as 28 runs came off the last over.

In the larger context of things – that Dhoni assault proved to be the clincher for Chennai.  

Brief Scores: Chennai 175/5 (MS Dhoni 75, Suresh Raina 32; Jofra Archer 2/17) beat Rajasthan 167/8 (Ben Stokes 46, Rahul Tripathi 39; Imran Tahir 2/23) by eight runs.