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7 Oct 2021
Showcasing their absolute might and underlining what could well have been in the season, KL Rahul smashed the Chennai Super Kings bowlers to all parts of the ground and handed a deflating defeat to the MS Dhoni-led side.
The limitations of the Super Kings side both in the bowling and batting department were getting masked in the initial phase of the tournament as they were able to find one hero who used to put their hands up. However, the law of averages has caught up with them in the last few games, and their fault lines have been exposed.
On the day, against the Punjab Kings, their batting unit stuttered in the face of dominating and disciplined pace bowling while their own pacers were found wanting against the might of KL Rahul, who was batting mercilessly, more to make a statement than to win the game.
MS Dhoni accepted they have had a string of bad games and they would need to finetune the aspects of the game that did not go as planned in the last few games.
Here, we’ll analyse the game and the best and the worst performances of the day.
What should be obvious gets accepted late by the Punjab Kings management and the selection or rather non-selection of England’s Chris Jordan is one of those issues of the season. The moment they found Mohammed Shami in good new ball form, they should have gone to Jordan for his ability to bowl yorkers in the end overs. Instead, they kept on going with Nathan Ellis and the Australian kept on going over the fence before facing the axe.
Jordan finally got the chance in the last game of the league stage and it could well be the only game he played in the 14th edition of the tournament. However, there were little signs of him being unprepared to take on the challenge to bowl against the Super Kings and broke their back with crucial two wickets of Robin Uthappa and Amabati Rayudu.
He beat Uthappa with pace and extra bounce off the surface in his very first over of return to the playing XI and dismissed the right-hander caught at deep square leg.
He bettered that with another delivery in the next over that jumped a bit more than Rayudu would have expected and the mistimed shot was snaffled by Arshdeep Singh, who was finding balls wherever he was positioned in the field.
He went for some runs against the set batsman Faf du Plessis in his third over that may have compelled Rahul to not complete his quota of four overs, but the big wickets of Uthappa and Rayudu in the middle phase after new-ball burst from Arshdeep Singh broke the backbone of the Super Kings batting and they could not receiver from early setbacks.
A chase of 135 runs could well have been tricky for the Kings considering their reputation of messing up seamless looking chases in the recent past but opening pair of Mayank Agarwal and KL Rahul calmed a lot of nerves with a solid partnership.
But, what good is a Punjab batting innings if there is no collapse even of a minor scale, and it did arrive when Mayank and Sarfaraz Khan went back to the pavilion in quick succession.
However, their skipper KL Rahul was in a mood to inflict rampage on the bowlers and give the Super Kings taste of their own medicine (Remember the rampant spell of swing bowling by Deepak Chahar in the first round of clash between the side and a 10-wicket annihilation by Faf du Plessis and Shane Watson in the last season).
KL Rahul has been criticised for showing a lack of aggression with the bat but on the day against the Super Kings, he was there to shed all that reputation and issue a statement of purpose of his batting.
He made his intentions of going with all his shots from the word go clear in the first over of Deepak Chahar and smashed him for two boundaries. Josh Hazlewood contained him from the other end, but Rahul got stuck into Chahar in the next over as well and deposited him for a stylish six and a four to plunder him for another expensive over.
There was no looking back for Rahul and Hazlewood too disappeared in the next over. The full ball was smashed over his head while short balls were despatched over square leg boundary in commanding fashion.
Shardul Thakur tried to break the momentum in the next over with two wickets, but Rahul was all set with the target well grasped in his eyes. He had no mercy for Shardul as well in his second over and dismissed him from his presence with another set of six and four.
Two more sixes flew off his bat against Deepak Chahar and maybe he was saying to him that he remembered his spell with the new ball in the first phase of the tournament where he had cut the Kings batting unit to size.
He could not notch up a deserving hundred but the swagger of hitting sixes with ease with little to no fuss was a statement that was due for a long time.
India are reliant on Rahul’s batting form in the T20 World Cup and they would be happy to see him batting with such freedom and dominance towards the end of the IPL.
Faf du Plessis
The opening pair of Faf du Plessis and Ruturaj Gaikwad has been the mainstay of Super Kings’ success in this edition and the South Africa right-hander turned out to be the glue that kept their innings together and prevented them from imploding below the 100-run mark.
The Super Kings were rocked early with the wicket of Gaikwad and none of the trios of Moeen Ali, Uthappa and Ryudu could stick around with Faf to steer the men in yellow out of the trouble.
MS Dhoni once again promoted himself up the order, but for a change tried to take on the bowling albeit in an unsuccessful way and it was all down to Faf’s shoulder if the Super Kings were to reach a respectable total.
There can be an assessment of Faf’s innings and he could be scrutinised for not taking the attack to the opposition bit early than he actually started but given the circumstances and how the team’s fortunes are dependent on even margin of victory and loss, his decision to choose safety over glory could well be justified.
KL Rahul’s storm meant that the Super Kings’ score was chased with ridiculous ease but his rampant innings would have reduced the magnitude of even a 180-run total and if Faf would have got out in the middle while chasing glory score, the Super Kings would have suffered big time.
Deepak Chahar has been a vital cog of the Super Kings attack since his entry into the franchise and MS Dhoni needed him to replicate his past performance against the Kings in the first round of the clash. However, the game turned out to be a nightmare for the pacer, as he struggled for line and length with little or no assistance from the pitch and in the air.
He was taken to the cleaners by a brutal KL Rahul, who was ready to tonk him over the top from the front foot when he pitched full and was equally eager to thump him over the square leg on the short ball. There was no respite for the pacer throughout the course of the Kings’ chase that lasted for just 13 overs and a lot of those hammerings in the 78 balls came on his 24 balls as he ended up conceding 48 runs.
Moeen Ali has been a revelation for the Super Kings in his maiden appearance for the franchise and his style of batting at the top of the order meant that the men in yellow were not suffering from the same disease that hampered their growth last season.
He was good against pacers and drove them around for fun to score runs at a brisk pace while carting the spinners over the fence and allowing the waning players such as Suresh Raina, MS Dhoni luxury of repetitive failures with the bat.
However, he too has caught that wave of low scores in the last few games and his struggle has put the Super Kings in a spot of bother at the top of the order.
In the game against the Kings, he was tested by the pace and bounce of Mohammed Shami and after the Indian pacer softened him up, Arshdeep Singh got him caught poking to an away going delivery. The manner of his dismissal would have hurt the team more than his departure as they have given him the license to go for glory and would not have loved to see their champion stroke maker poking unconvincingly outside off stump to walk back to the pavilion.
The Super Kings were mauled comprehensively by the Kings and they have faced three consecutive defeats in the last phase of the tournament. MS Dhoni has always highlighted the importance of peaking at a right time as a team and he would hope that the troika of bad performances is not the sign of his players going on a downward spiral having peaked too early.
The Kings were dominating with the bat and disciplined with the ball and they are living on the edge just in case the Kolkata Knight Riders and the Mumbai Indians have a shocker like the Super Kings in their last game. However, with persistent inadequacy in tactics and ineffectiveness from players, they have only themselves to blame for their position in the tournament.