Chennai win as Bangalore’s miserable season comes to an end

Two-time champions all but seal second place in the IPL play-offs.
MS Dhoni scored an unbeaten 49 off just 28 deliveries on Saturday. Ravindranath K / The National
MS Dhoni scored an unbeaten 49 off just 28 deliveries on Saturday. Ravindranath K / The National

Neither a change in clothing, nor massive changes to the playing XI, including the omission of Chris Gayle, made any difference to Royal Challengers Bangalore’s fortunes. A miserable season of plenty – plenty of woes – ended with a whimper in front of another packed gathering at the M Chinnaswamy Stadium on Saturday evening as Virat Kohli’s men helped Chennai Super Kings arrest a three-match losing run and carry some momentum into the play-off stages.

The Bangalore captain himself was singularly free of blame, producing not just his highest innings (73 off 49) of IPL 2014 but also easily his best knock, after MS Dhoni stuck Bangalore in. But the rest of the batting once again failed to rise to the occasion as the home side were forced to settle for 154 for six.

Normally, a total of such modest proportions would not have tested a batting line-up as strong as Chennai’s at a fast-scoring ground, but this was not a normal Chinnaswamy surface. There was a bit of turn and the pace was a little off, so even if Bangalore had not successfully defended less than 157 at this venue, they were still in with a shout if they bowled with discipline at the start and picked up early wickets.

Dwayne Smith and Faf du Plessis destroyed Bangalore’s designs – in their designer greens to reaffirm their commitment to the environment – with a bone-crunching assault that left them scampering for cover. Fours and sixes cascaded off their blades with stunning regularity; 57 had been realised for the opening stand in just 26 deliveries, and by the time Smith was dismissed by Ravi Rampaul for 34 off 17 balls, the writing was pretty much on the wall.

Dhoni, who pushed himself up to No 4, survived a stumping chance off Yuvraj Singh when just 15, then celebrated the reprieve by smashing two sixes and a four in the next five deliveries. Du Plessis eased off, realising that the skipper was in the mood, though it was he who brought up the winning runs with a giant six off Shadab Jakati to round off a third-wicket stand of 75 on the back of which Chennai raced to 160 for two, and victory by eight wickets with 14 deliveries to spare.

Both Smith and du Plessis are uncomplicated batsmen who do not believe in great flourish and even the slightest of fuss. They took the first over from Jakati – one of four changes in the Bangalore XI – to get their eye in, then teed off with gay abandon. Smith unleashed a gorgeous drive on the up off Rampaul to set the ball rolling, and then ceded centre stage to du Plessis, who followed up a swat over mid-on with a wonderful drive over long-off as he danced down as if to a spinner.

That over went for 15, as did Jakati’s next, and when Kohli turned to Mitchell Starc, the damage was even more telling. Smith, him with a penchant for hitting straight, drilled the left-arm paceman through and over mid-off, du Plessis got his own back with a pull that soared deep into the crowd behind long-leg. It made for some viewing, the aesthetics standing down even as the runs came at breakneck pace.

It was going to be impossible to maintain that rate once the ball got softer and Yuzvendra Chahal, the leg-spinner, came into action. Chennai’s tactics of going hard at the new ball was spot on; towards the middle stages, the boundaries dried up even though du Plessis was well set and Dhoni had promoted himself. Indeed, no boundaries were struck between the 9th and the 15th overs and Dhoni had to wait 15 deliveries for his first four, but the flourish with which Chennai finished off their chase gave their net run rate a turbo-boost as they raced to victory.

Victory was something Bangalore were desperate to gift their loyal fans for their continued support despite the team performing well below par. Coming off consecutive losses to Sunrisers Hyderabad and Kolkata Knight Riders – which ended their interest in their competition – they rang in the changes. Gayle, out of sorts all season after missing the early part with a back injury from which he never totally recovered, warmed the bench alongside Ashok Dinda, Abu Nechim Ahmed and Muttiah Muralitharan. Apart from Jakati and Rampaul, Bangalore brought in Rilee Rossouw and Vijay Zol, though it was the man Chennai pulled back from the wilderness that struck the first blow.

Ashish Nehra played in Chennai’s first match of the competition when they lost to Kings XI Punjab, but has been on the sidelines since. His return to the playing XI was on Saturday exceptionally impressive. He cleaned up Rossouw in the first over, then came back at the death to produce two brilliant yorkers that accounted for the dangerous AB de Villiers and the free-flowing Kohli, who dealt primarily in sixes as he continued his mastery in IPL cricket over Ravichandran Ashwin.

Ashwin has never dismissed Kohli in the IPL, and that run extended to another game. Having walked in at No 4 in the fifth over after Takawale had been trapped in front by Ashwin, Kohli saw Zol perish in the following over as Bangalore found themselves in familiar trouble at 33 for three. Kohli and Yuvraj took their time consolidating; Yuvraj in particular was extremely circumspect, not hitting his first four until his 19th delivery, by which time Kohli had shed the shackles by hitting Ashwin for two huge sixes on the on-side.

Just when the fourth-wicket stand was assuming alarming proportions, Chennai broke through when Ravindra Jadeja evicted Yuvraj in his first over. That united the two most dangerous finishers in the Bangalore line-up, and for a brief while, it appeared as if they would do to Chennai what they have done to several teams in the past. With Kohli switching into overdrive and de Villiers playing his strokes right from the off, they had added 42 in just 22 deliveries.

That is when Nehra came up with the first of two standout yorkers to send de Villiers packing.

Kohli was not done yet, tonking Mohit Sharma and Nehra for two more sixes and ensuring that Bangalore amassed 98 off the last ten. The first 10, however, had proved their undoing, and when Dhoni decided it was time to cut loose, Bangalore really had nowhere to hide.

R Kaushik is deputy editor at Wisden India. Visit www.wisdenindia.com for more on the IPL or follow them on Twitter @WisdenIndia.

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Published: May 24, 2014 04:00 AM

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