Half-centuries from Ambati Rayudu (71) and Faf du Plessis (58 not out), coupled with a blistering six-ball cameo from Sam Curran (18), helped last year’s runners-up Chennai Super Kings (CSK) beat reigning champions Mumbai Indians (MI) by five wickets in the opening match of the Indian Premier League (IPL) 2020 on Saturday at the Sheikh Zayed Stadium in Abu Dhabi. This is also MS Dhoni’s 100th IPL win as Chennai Super Kings captain. (SCORECARD)

Dhoni, who was making a comeback after a 437-day hiatus, once again showed the world that he hasn’t lost an ounce of his leadership acumen. His battle-hardened Chennai outfit proved to be a tough nut to crack for defending champs Mumbai on Saturday. (MATCH HIGHLIGHTS)

Chasing a tricky 163-run target, Rayudu and du Plessis knitted a mammoth 115-run stand for the third wicket to help CSK chase down the total with five wickets to spare. The duo left no stone unturned to make up for the absence of stalwart and CSK’s permanent No. 3 – Suresh Raina.

It wasn’t a jam-packed Wankhede rooting for the Mumbai Indians nor was it the passionate Chepauk stands with its Yellow Army in full fervour. It was a near-empty Sheikh Zayed Stadium in the Arabian desert where Bryan Adams’ Summer of 69 or Rocky’s theme music Eye of a Tiger blared from the sound systems along with artificial crowd cheers.

In this eerie set-up, Captain Cool’s brain kept ticking as his new recruits — leg-spinner Piyush Chawla (1/21 in 4 overs) and left-arm seamer Sam Curran (1/28 in 4 overs) — made fantastic first impressions while the new ball pair of Lungi Ngidi (3/38 in 4 overs) and Deepak Chahar (2/32 in 4 overs) came back brilliantly at the death overs.

The skipper also sent match-fit Sam Curran at No. 6 and his 18 off 6 balls ended any anti-climax that Rohit Sharma’s men would have anticipated.

Giving less than 80 runs in the back-10 was the turning point and then the manner in which Rayudu and Du Plessis chased it after a scratchy start as MI maintained their record of not winning an IPL opening game since 2013.

Trent Boult, with an in-dipper and James Pattinson, with a slightly dodgy decision going his way, removed Shane Watson and Murali Vijay respectively, making it 6 for 2 before Rayudu, in the company of du Plessis, launched a furious counter attack.

One of the major aspects was how clueless Jasprit Bumrah (1/43 in 4 overs) looked during the day and it cost his team dearly.