Jos Buttler smashed a 48-ball 70 and shared a 98-run unbeaten fourth-wicket partnership with Steven Smith (34-ball 26) to steer Rajasthan Royals to a seven-wicket win over Chennai Super Kings at the Sheikh Zayed Cricket Stadium in Abu Dhabi.
Royals climbed to fifth spot and Chennai sat with the wooden spoon for their own fault. It’s a given the Abu Dhabi pitch is slow, supports bowlers and tests batsmen’s temperament but surely the strip is not one where Chennai’s 125 will be a par score or defendable.
While chasing, Royals initially did make heavy weather of the target but soaked the pressure to reach home and dry.
At the start, Ben Stokes went blazing but then Chennai bowlers halted the run flow. Seamer Deepak Chahar got the better of an aggressive Stokes (11-ball 19) and then Sanju Samson (0), courtesy a sharp diving catch from wicketkeeper MS Dhoni, and quickie Josh Hazlewood tamed a stylish Robin Uthappa (9-ball 4). Royals fell to 28/3 after five overs, including a maiden-wicket over from Chahar.
New pair of Buttler and Smith resurrected the innings. The seniors knocked a few boundaries around to take Royals to 59 after 10 overs. Buttler then plonked medium-pacer Shardul Thakur for a six and boundary to make it a run-a-ball chase. The Englishman struck leg-spinner Piyush Chawla for three consecutive boundaries to raise his fifty and dented any hopes that Chennai harboured. For Buttler, his 70 not out was second fifty of the tournament after scoring the same figure against Mumbai Indians in Abu Dhabi.
The foundation for the victory was, however, laid by Royals leg spinners Shreyas Gopal (1 for 14) and Rahul Tewatia (1 for 18), who tightened the belt in the middle overs, and the pace battery, which was effective in the first half and slog overs.
Chennai, after electing to bat, lacked bottle and overall couldn’t hit a boundary in 14 overs of the match and there was just one six by Sam Curran off Stokes. It was Ravindra Jadeja (30-ball 35) and Dhoni (28-ball 28), who cobbled together a 51-run partnership to put 125 on the board.
Chennai suffered early setbacks as a sharp Jofra Archer felled opener Faf du Plessis (9-ball 10) and one-down Shane Watson (3-ball 8) perished trying to smack seamer Kartik Tyagi.
At 26/2, an experienced Ambati Rayudu joined opener Curran. The pair went after Stokes raking 15 runs from one over. But Royals froze the scoring with spinners Gopal and Tewatia. Curran (25-ball 22) tried to break the shackles but was caught off Gopal, giving the Bengaluru spinner his fourth wicket of the tournament in Abu Dhabi. Rayudu (19-ball 13) succumbed to relentless pressure from Tewatia.
At half-way with Chennai at 56/4, Jadeja joined Dhoni. The pair took their time to settle while Gopal and Tewatia completed their spells, conceding 32 runs in their 8 overs with no boundary at all.
Dhoni and Jadeja ended the lull with three boundaries off Tyagi. The duo brought 100 up by 17 overs.
Just when the stage was set for the oft-seen onslaught, Dhoni (28) ran himself out while trying to sneak a second run. There were no fireworks in his 200th IPL match. Jadeja (35) knocked a few late boundaries as Chennai closed with the lowest first-innings score of this edition, which was easily chased with 15 balls to spare.
CHENNAI SUPER KINGS
S Curran c Buttler b Gopal 22
F du Plessis c Buttler b Archer 10
S Watson c Tewatia b Tyagi 8
A Rayudu c Samson b Tewatia 13
M Dhoni run out 28
R Jadeja not out 35
K Jadhav not out 4
Extras: (b 1, lb 2, nb 1, w 1) 5
Total: (5 wkts, 20 overs) 125
Fall of wickets: 1-13 (Faf du Plessis, 2.6 ov), 2-26 (Shane Watson, 3.6 ov), 3-53 (Sam Curran, 8.2 ov), 4-56 (Ambati Rayudu, 9.6 ov), 5-107 (MS Dhoni, 17.4 ov)
Bowling: J Archer 4-0-20-1; A Rajpoot 1-0-8-0; Kartik Tyagi 4-0-35-1; B Stokes 3-0-27-0; S Gopal 4-0-14-1; R Tewatia 4-0-18-1
B Stokes b Chahar 19
R Uthappa c Dhoni b Hazlewood 4
S Samson c Dhoni b Chahar 0
S Smith not out 26
J Buttler not out 70
Extras: (lb 6, w 1) 7
Total: (3 wkts, 17.3 overs) 126
Fall of wickets: 1-26 (Ben Stokes, 2.6 ov), 2-28 (Robin Uthappa, 3.2 ov), 3-28 (Sanju Samson, 4.3 ov)
Bowling: D Chahar 4-1-18-2; J Hazlewood 4-0-19-1; R Jadeja 1.3-0-11; S Thakur 4-0-34-0; S Curran 1-0-6-0
P Chawla 3-0-32-0
Player of the match: Jos Buttler (Royals)
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