This was not supposed to get this close! Openers Ruturaj Gaikwad and Faf du Plessis put up a batting masterclass and helped Chennai Super Kings amass 220 against Kolkata Knight Riders in Match 15 of the Indian Premier League 2021 at the Wankhede Stadium on Wednesday (April 21). Deepak Chahar then did his thing with the new ball and reduced Kolkata to 31/5 before the end of six overs. The Men in Purple looked down and out but Andre Russell, Dinesh Karthik and Pat Cummins refused to throw in the towel and almost ended up outmuscling MS Dhoni and Co.
Kolkata skipper Eoin Morgan won the toss and asked Chennai to bat first. However, the opening combination of Gaikwad (42-ball 64) and du Plessis (60-ball 95*) put on 115 runs and propelled Chennai to a massive first innings total. The game looked dead and gone before the powerplay ended in the second innings, but that's when Russell, Karthik and Cummins went berserk and kept Kolkata alive till the very last over. It was Karthik (24-ball 40) and Russell (22-ball 54) who started the carnage before Cummins (34-ball 66*) joined the party and ripped apart Chennai's bowling attack.
If you combine Curran and Shardul Thakur's bowling figures, the two leaked 106 runs in just 7.1 overs. The former was whacked for 30 runs in an over but managed to bounce back and displayed tremendous courage for his age. Curran bowled a superb 19th over and got the equation down to 20 off 6. Cummins was still there but Kolkata were already nine down. Things could have taken a wild, turn but before anything could happen, Prasidh Krishna was run out on the first delivery of the final over and Chennai managed to win by 18 runs. The Men in Yellow have now won three games in a row and are currently on top of the points table. Meanwhile, Kolkata have lost three of their four games.
BATTING MASTERCLASS FROM DU PLESSIS, GAIKWAD
This was a big game for Gaikwad who was coming into this encounter having scored just 20 runs in the first three games of the season. The right-hander was the biggest reason why Chennai had the lowest scoring rate in the powerplay, prior to this match, in IPL 2021. The surface was offering enough turn to the spinners and Varun Chakravarthy and Sunil Narine managed to keep Gaikwad and du Plessis in check. The two, however, looked a lot more comfortable against pace. It was du Plessis who announced his arrival with a superb punch through the square region before Gaikwad too got into the act and crafted Cummins for a four and a six in the second over.
The duo played some delightful shots in the first six overs as Chennai raced to 54/0 by the end of the powerplay - their best this season. Cummins in particular struggled to get his line and length right and was taken to the cleaners. Morgan was forced to bring Russell early into the attack but Gaikwad greeted him with a six over deep mid-wicket. The young opener pounced on anything short and played some fearless pull shots. Chakravarthy (1/27) and Narine (1/34) did a decent job but the Kolkata seamers were smacked all around the park.
There were talks about dropping Gaikwad from the playing XI but the team management backed him and the young opener repaid the faith in some style. He slammed Kamlesh Nagarkoti for a maximum down the ground and completed his fourth IPL fifty with a single. The two openers started batting even more aggressively after the end of 10 overs and accumulated 33 runs in the space of two overs. Gaikwad, who crafted six fours and four maximums, finally fell to Chakravarthy in the 13th over. The stage was set for the middle order to take over and give Chennai a rapid finish and that's exactly what they did.
Moeen Ali (12-ball 25), Dhoni (8-ball 17) and Ravindra Jadeja (1-ball 6*) all chipped in with handy cameos, while du Plessis kept going at the other end. Du Plessis was particularly outstanding against the fast bowlers and took the attack to Cummins (0/58), Prasidh (0/49), Nagarkoti and Russell. The South African couldn't complete his century but that was some knock from du Plessis, smashing nine fours and four sixes.
CHAHAR AND HIS LOVE AFFAIR WITH THE NEW BALL
There was dew and conditions were totally favourable to the batsmen, and as a result, Chennai desperately needed Chahar to strike early and that's exactly what he did. KKR got off to the worst possible start as they have lost Shubman Gill (0) in the very first over. This was one of those nights where the ball was moving and that's when Chahar is at his best. After getting rid of Gill, the right-arm seamer got rid of in-form Nitish Rana (12-ball 9). Chahar didn't stop there as he sent back Morgan (7) and Narine (4) back in the hut in the fifth over and put Chennai right on top. Playing his first game of the season, Lungi Ngidi had Rahul Tripathi (8) caught behind and left Kolkata in tatters.
RUSSELL, CUMMINS WREAK HAVOC
It felt like Kolkata would surrender pretty quickly but that's when the lower middle-order stepped up. The carnage started in the sixth over when Russell walked out to bat. The big Jamaican looked in some mood tonight as he clobbered Ngidi for two fours and a six in his first four deliveries. He then went after Chahar in his final over and hammered him for a maximum over cow corner. Karthik too joined the party and got his first six of the innings in the same over. The pair counterattacked in grand fashion and added 81 runs in just 36 deliveries.
Dhoni introduced Thakur into the attack and Russell slammed him for three sixes and a four, 24 in total. Thakur tried everything but Russell kept outmuscling him. The first two sixes went over the point region, while the last one was blasted over deep mid-wicket. The right-hander raced to his landmark off just 21 deliveries and there were some nervous faces in the Chennai camp. But, that's when Curran put his hand up and knocked over Russell behind his legs. Karthik stuck around for a while before he was outfoxed by Ngidi.
Cummins could surely bat but he was left with too much to do. It felt like the game was over but he wanted to give it a try. The Australian was calculative yet super brutal. He dismantled Curran by smacking him for 30 runs in the 16th over - four sixes and a boundary - and got the equation down to gettable 45 off 24. Cummins, however, found no support from the other end as KKR kept losing wickets at regular intervals. Ngidi was tidy in the 17th over, while Curran only gave away eight runs in the 19th over. Before Cummins could even try to get Kolkata home, Prasidh was unfortunately run out, bringing an end to what was a phenomenal game.