Suresh Raina, Imran Tahir star as CSK juggernaut continues
Suresh Raina roared back to form with a timely half-century. (BCCI Image)

The Chennai Super Kings juggernaut continued to roll on in the IPL 2019 with Suresh Raina and Imran Tahir starring in a five-wicket win over Kolkata Knight Riders at the Eden Gardens on Sunday. Chasing KKR’s 162, led by Chris Lynn’s sparkling half-century and Tahir’s career-best figures which limited the score, Suresh Raina roared back to form with a half-century to lead CSK’s chase. Aided by a cameo from Ravindra Jadeja, CSK capped off yet another win – their seventh of the season.

CSK’s innings was one full of abrupt starts and instantaneous stoppages. After Shane Watson endured yet another failure at the top, Faf du Plessis belted four boundaries in a row off Andre Russell to give the innings steam. But just when du Plessis was beginning to look ominous for KKR, the spinners were introduced and suddenly, the game seemed to be changing its course

Sunil Narine, on his return match, cleaned up du Plessis when the batsman missed a sweep. Since, CSK tried to forge two partnerships but both failing after starts. Raina and Ambati Rayudu added 17 for the third wicket, while the left-hander and Kedar Jadhav added 20. On both occasions, the leg spin of Piyush Chawla got the better of batsmen. Rayudu was snared out cheaply, whereas Jadhav threw away a start which saw him strike three boundaries and a six.

With KKR spinners slowly allowing them to crawl back, it was up to CSK’s most reliable pair of Raina and MS Dhoni to bail CSK out of trouble and the duo seemed to be doing so with Dhoni striking Kuldeep Yadav down the ground for a maximum. But a struggling back held Dhoni back and making the most of it was Narine, who trapped the skipper out leg before, the review not saving him.

During all this, Raina held one end after he went upstairs and successfully reviewed a leg before appeal. He was offered a couple of leg-sidish slacks initially in the innings, to which the batsman gleefully responded. While the rest of the batting struggled against wrist spin, Raina took Chawla for a boundary and six off consecutive balls and endured to put the half-trackers away. It took his 36 balls to reach his half-century and remained key for CSK to knock off the runs

But while all eyes remained on Raina, it was Jadeja who took the responsibility of seeing CSK through. And the over he targeted was the penultimate of the innings, bowled by Harry Gurney. With 24 needed off 12, Jadeja smacked three fours in a row, aided by Gurney himself, who callously drifted down Jadeja’s legs to bring the equation down to eight needed off six. Without much sweat, Jadeja and Raina completed the formalities to help CSK consolidate their position at the top.

Having missed the previous game due to flue, Lynn took exactly two balls to declare his intent. He took on Deepak Chahar, perhaps CSK’s most standout pacer in the series and took him for four boundaries and a six in his first two overs to bring up 1000 IPL runs. Chahar’s new-ball partner, Shardul Thakur, fared slightly better against Lynn but he too went for a couple of fours in his first.

Mitchell Santner gave KKR their first breakthrough, with Narine holing out to du Plessis in the deep. KKR then banked on Lynn and Rana with a 42-run partnership for the second wicket, during which Rana started off well with three crisp boundaries through the off-side, all three coming against Jadeja’s left-arm spin.

Rana however couldn’t get on top of Jadeja’s spin partner Tahir and skied him to long-on for an impressive 21. CSK sniffed an outing and two balls later, Robin Uthappa uncharacteristically played a slog sweep first ball which took the top edge and gave du Plessis his third catch. CSK had struck twice in three balls.

Lynn surprisingly went reserved as he approached his eighth fifty. Though once he got there off 36 balls, he decided to get a move on. And the bowler he targeted was Jadeja, bowling the 14th over. Lynn welcomed the left-arm spinner with three consecutive sixes and a last-ball four from skipper Dinesh Karthik capped off a much-needed 23-run over.

With KKR once again threatening to run away with the advantage, CSK snatched it back, once again through Tahir. In his second spell, the legspinner dealt KKR two big body blows – first getting Lynn to top edge and slog sweep for his dismissal and then removing the big man Andre Russell – also to a slow sweep for the West Indian’s first single-digit score this season.

Karthik struggled for his 14-ball 18 before he was put out of his misery by Thakur, a dismissal in which du Plessis completed his fourth catch of the match. The pacer returned to bowl a tight last over in which he dismissed Shubman Gill and affected the run-out of Kuldeep Yadav.

Brief Scores: Chennai Super Kings 162 for 5 (Suresh Raina 58*, Ravindra Jadeja 31*; Piyush Chawla 2 for 32) beat Kolkata Knight Riders 161 for 8 (Chris Lynn 82, Nitish Rana 21; Imran Tahir 4 for 27) by five wickets.