Faf du Plessis made an explosive return to the Chennai Super Kings fold, while Harbhajan Singh turned the clock back with an impressive spell as the Chennai side posted a 22-run victory over Kings XI Punjab on Saturday.
CSK move atop the standings with the victory, while Kings XI stayed in fourth place.
An entertaining 54 off 38 balls (2x4, 4x6) from du Plessis and a late burst from MS Dhoni ensured the Men in Yellow posted as competitive 160 for three.
On an absolutely sluggish MA Chidambaram track, du Plessis showed great technique and temperament as he put away the bad deliveries, while staying patient against the spinners.
Shane Watson hasn’t really set the IPL on fire this year but the burly Australian showed signs of regaining his touch before holding out to Sam Curran off Ravichandran Ashwin at deep mid-wicket for 26.
du Plessis continued to chug on with Suresh Raina for company at the other end.
The Chepauk pitch was expected to aide spinners and two local boys R Ashwin (4-0-23-3) and Murugan Ashwin (4-0-23-0) took complete advantage of the conditions.
CSK scored 54 for no loss, their highest Powerplay score in this year’s IPL, but after Watson departed there was a lull with spinners operating at both ends.
South African du Plessis brought up his half-century in the 13th over with a fine hit over cow corner for six and it looked like Raina and him were primed to go big. But Kings skipper Ashwin brought himself on and immediately sent both du Plessis and Raina back to the hut in successive balls.
While du Plessis was caught my Miller at long on, Raina was castled by Ashwin as he tried to go big and missed the ball completely.
Thereafter, Chepauk reverberated with chants glorifying their favourite son -- MS Dhoni (37 off 23), who teamed up with Ambati Rayudu (21 off 15) to take his team to a decent total.
With the ball not really coming on, Chris Gayle was expected to struggle and he did. After a streaky boundary off Deepak Chahar in the first over, Gayle fell to his old nemesis Harbhajan for five.
KL Rahul and Sarfaraz Khan (67 off 59) then raised Punjab’s hopes with a sensible 110-run partnership. Debutant Scott Kuggeleijn was less than impressive in his first spell going for 27 but came back to dismiss Rahul, bowling an impressive 18th over. En route to his 55, Rahul had a slice of luck when he moved out of his crease and Dhoni was lightning quick to flick the ball back onto the stumps. The lights illuminated but bails refused to dislodge.
Imran Tahir, despite going wicketless, was instrumental in stifling Rahul and Sarfaraz returning figures of 0/20 off his four.
39 runs were required off the last two and barring a couple of beamers from Deepak Chahar at the start of the 19th, CSK had no further hiccups.
After Rahul’s dismissal in the 18th over, Kings XI’s winning percentage dropped drastically to 7% after which they choked and couldn’t get over the line. However, when Sarfaraz and Rahul were going well, they had a win per cent of 55 in the 12th over -- their highest during the chase.
Ashwin’s double whammy in the 14th over saw CSK’s win percentage drop by 15 and was 45%. After CSK got 19 off Sam Curran’s 19th, its win percentage rose to 56.