It was vintage stuff as Dhoni rolled back the years but in the end unheralded Royals seamer Sandeep Sharma nailed a couple of perfect block-hole deliveries to earn a three-run victory for his team.
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Chasing a target of 176, Dhoni (32 off 17 balls) and Ravindra Jadeja (25 off 15 balls), were on course as 21 was needed off the last over. CSK’s final score was 172/6 as Dhoni didn’t end his 200th game for CSK in a manner he would have liked in his spiritual home with 30,000 plus spectators rooting for him.
Punjab seamer Sandeep seemed to lose his nerve as he bowled a couple of wides and then Dhoni whipped him over square leg and mid-wicket for a couple of sixes.
AS IT HAPPENED
Needing 6 off last two deliveries, the medium pacer got a wide yorker to Jadeja and then a perfect block-hole ball to Dhoni as it fetched a couple of singles.
However Devon Conway had a scratchy approach on tacky pitch as his 50 off 38 balls didn’t provide the momentum with Ravichandran Ashwin (2/25 in 4 overs) and Yuzvendra Chahal (2/27 in 4 overs) bowling exceptionally well.
Earlier, Jos Buttler wasn’t exactly devastating in his approach but yet managed the 18th half-century of his IPL career as Rajasthan Royals posted a decent 175/8 after being put into bat first.
While Royals were 135/4 after 15 overs, the last five overs wasn’t as productive as they would have expected with only 40 runs being added and four wickets lost in the process.
Ravindra Jadeja (2/21 in 4 overs) was as usual menacing on a surface that assisted the spinners even as Buttler hit three huge sixes in his 36-ball-52. He had a good 77-run second wicket stand with Devdutt Padikkal (38 off 26 balls), who after his struggles against Punjab Kings, was back in his element.
Towards the end, Shimron Hetmyer (30 off 18 balls) was ever impressive as a finisher while Tushar Deshpande (2/37) gave only eight runs in the 20th over.
The CSK bowlers, especially Jadeja managed to peg back the Royals batters after the brisk start with the 50 coming in the 6th over.
Royals did struggle between overs 8-13 as they lost two wickets in the space of three balls with Padikkal and skipper Sanju Samson (0) falling to Jadeja.
The delivery that got Samson, was bowled with high arm speed and it did turn enough along with sufficient bounce to force the batter play a wrong line.
After a phase in which the Royals batters did not score any boundaries for a little over six overs, Ashwin (30, 22 balls, 1×4, 2×6) smacked two successive sixes off debutant left-arm pacer Akash Singh.
He fell even as he was looking to step up the pace, skying one off Akash in the deep.
After skipper MS Dhoni won the toss and opted to bowl, Deshpande struck an early blow for the home team, dismissing the dangerous Yashasvi Jaiswal (10, 8 balls, 2×4), having him caught by Shivam Dube.
Buttler and Padikkal (38, 26 balls, 5×4) add 77 runs in 41 deliveries before the latter fell to Ravindra Jadeja, caught in the deep by Devon Conway. The partnership laid the foundation for the Royals after Jaiswal was dismissed early.
Dhoni was felicitated prior to the match for captaining CSK for a 200th time in IPL by former BCCI president N Srinivasan in the presence of his wife Chitra Srinivasan and former TNCA president Rupa Gurunath.
(With PTI inputs)