Steve Smith’s stunning catch on the long-on boundary proved to be the turning point of the Champions League Group B opener in Johannesburg, as Chennai Super Kings collapsed to lose by 14 runs to Sydney Sixers.
With Suresh Raina playing brilliantly and well set on 57 off 32 balls, Chennai needed a manageable 45 from the final 22 balls of their innings. Raina, who had already hit two sixes, would have reckoned that he was about notch up his third when he lofted a delivery from Moises Henriques high towards long-on. However, Smith caught him high over his head just a fraction inside the boundary, almost overbalanced, before regaining his composure and running in to celebrate with his team-mates. Raina’s partner, Super Kings captain MS Dhoni, followed two balls later, also well caught, this time by Josh Hazlewood, to hammer the final nail in their coffin.
Chennai’s pursuit of Sydney’s impressive total of 185 for five had begun badly, as Mitchell Starc sent Murali Vijay’s stumps flying with a beautiful in-ducker in his first over, and Mike Hussey and Faf du Plessis struggled initially against some impressive Sixers seam-bowling.
They had reached just seven for the loss of Vijay after three overs, before du Plessis began to cut loose. He deposited Starc over extra cover for six in the fourth over, and greeted Pat Cummins’ introduction with a brace of fours. After six overs, Chennai had recovered to 46 for one, mainly thanks to du Plessis who had 33 off 19 balls.
Unfortunately for Chennai, they suffered an untimely double-strike in the eighth and ninth overs, as Cummins exacted his revenge on du Plessis by having him caught in the outfield, and left-arm spinner Steve O’Keefe ended Mike Hussey’s uninspiring 19-ball knock at 16, having him caught slog sweeping by Michael Lumb.
Suresh Raina then strode the crease and immediately countered any accusations of a weakness against pace by flat-batting Hazlewood through mid-off for four. He continued to play with both elegance and power, lofting O’Keefe over mid-wicket for six and hitting boundaries off Shane Watson, Cummins and Henriques. He lost his partner Subramaniam Badrinath in the 15th over with their fourth-wicket partnership having reached 55, of which Badrinath had scored just six, before perishing himself two overs later to that catch by Steve Smith to realistically end Chennai’s challenge. They finished on 171 for nine from their 20 overs, with Starc and Henriques each collecting three wickets.
Henriques, who had only notched up his maiden first-class century last month, had earlier blazed 49 from only 23 deliveries to take Sixers from a projected total of around 160 to their eventual one well past 180. He hit eight boundaries and together with Steve Smith added 75 off 39 balls for the fifth-wicket.
Shane Watson had ensured the innings got off to a promising start, adding 50 inside the first six overs with Michael Lumb (18 off 16 balls), before being run-out by a direct hit from the deep by Ben Hilfenhaus just as he was beginning to dominate. His dismissal for 46 off 30 balls necessitated a slight Sixers rebuild prior to Henriques’ onslaught which took them to a beyond par 185 for five.
Following tidy opening spells from Chennai’s Australian opening bowlers, Doug Bollinger and Ben Hilfenhaus, MS Dhoni had plumped for plenty of spin as Ravi Jadeja (one for 29), Faf du Plessis (none for 35) and R Ashwin (two for 32) all delivered their full allocations. Unfortunately for Dhoni and Chennai, Bollinger and Hilfenhaus’ spells at the death were much less successful, mainly thanks to Henriques’ clean hitting.
© Cricket World 2012
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