Indian Premier League: Aaron Finch steps up as Pune Warriors batsmen punish Chennai Super Kings

Steven Smith makes his first appearance of the tournament and comes up big for the Pune Warriors India in a much-needed 24-run victory, writes Shamya Dasgupta.

Aaron Finch, right, shown here playing with the Victorian Bushrangers, led the Pune Warriors to a 24-run win at Chennai on Monday in Indian Premier League action. Alexander Joe / AP photo
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Pune 159-5 (20 ov)
135-8 (19.6 ov)

Toss Pune, chose to bat

Pune Finch 67, Smith 39; Morris 2-25, Bravo 2-35

Chennai Badrinath 34, Jadeja 27, B Kumar 2-7, Marsh 2-35

Man of the match Aaron Finch (Pune Warriors)

Aaron Finch's blistering 67, Steven Smith's unbeaten cameo of 39 in his first match of the tournament, and a disciplined bowling performance gave Pune Warriors India a much-needed 24-run win against Chennai Super Kings on Monday at the MA Chidambaram Stadium in Chennai.

Having decided to bat first, Pune put up 159 for five and then restricted Chennai to 135 for eight to register their second win in five matches in this year's IPL. As against Royal Challengers Bangalore, Chennai got off to a poor start as Bhuvneshwar Kumar picked up two wickets in three overs. M Vijay, who was dropped by T Suman when on one, then hit back-to-back boundaries off Ashok Dinda and a six off Mitchell Marsh to get the innings moving.

He made 24 before Abhishek Nayar, in his first over of the tournament, had him caught by Ross Taylor, the stand-in captain, at extra cover.

That brought S Badrinath and Ravindra Jadeja together. They found the gaps, ran quickly and controlled the chase during a 46-run partnership. However, Marsh struck twice in two overs to send them both back. Badrinath fell to an off-cutter, caught by Smith at long-off for 34, and Jadeja's 22-ball 27 ended with a scoop to short fine leg.

After Dwayne Bravo fell to Rahul Sharma, Albie Morkel hit a six to bring down the equation to 46 off the last three overs. But unlike against Bangalore, there was no repeat in store. Dinda had MS Dhoni caught at long-off and that effectively ended the pursuit.

The first half of the evening was all about the intent that Finch showed from the moment he straight-drove Dirk Nannes for four. Until he and Robin Uthappa were separated in the 13th over, it was a pure exhibition of explosive batting with Finch playing the lead.

They took calculated risks, punished the seamers every time they erred in line and used their feet against the spinners. By the time Finch brought up his half-century in the ninth over, he had hit eight fours and a six. It forced Dhoni to introduce all five bowling options within the first 10 overs.

Finch's 45-ball innings when Dhoni stumped him off Jadeja, and Uthappa followed when he checked his shot off Chris Morris to long-on.

The rapid start was in danger of being squandered until Smith came in and smashed three fours and three sixes. In a match filled with eye-catching shots, his reverse-swept six off Bravo in the final over was the best. He rounded off a super day with three catches as Pune got back to winning ways.

Sidhanta Patnaik is a sub editor with Wisden India.

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