INDIAN PREMIER LEAGUE 2019
Harbhajan ended with figures of 3 for 20 as CSK beat RCB by seven wickets © BCCI
“Not a lot of us saw that coming… He [Dhoni] got one on us tonight,” was AB de Villiers’s observations when he was miked up during the second innings of the match. They were answers to specific questions posed to him about the pitch at the MA Chidambaram Stadium for the opening game of IPL 2019. CSK won the game by seven wickets after bowling RCB out for just 70, equalling their second-lowest score in the tournament. But the story of the game was the pitch and how the two teams read it that proved to be the biggest difference in the game.
The Harbhajan trick
He wasn’t expected to be the biggest threat in the build-up to the game but not only did MS Dhoni pull a fast one by including him but topped it up by opening the attack with him after choosing to bowl. And Harbhajan responded in style, first stifling Virat Kohli, who eventually dragged one to deep mid wicket after a 12-ball 6. Moeen Ali got in a slog-sweep for six against the spinner before his hard hands resulted in a simple return catch. Even AB de Villiers couldn’t get a hang of the pitch quickly enough, presenting chances off consecutive deliveries and giving Jadeja his second catch of the night after being dropped by Tahir.
With his 3 for 20, Harbhajan had sparked panic within the RCB line-up while also presenting a template for his bowlers – to bowl flatter trajectories and good lengths. If the turn didn’t get the batsmen then the pace, or lack of it, did them in.
A pitch that sticks
CSK’s coach, Stephen Fleming, had reckoned that the pitch had changed drastically from the time they played a practice game on it a couple of days ago. MS Dhoni wasn’t sure of how it’d play at the toss, and explained that his decision to bowl first was because of this doubt. Kohli expected dew to come in at some stage later in the game and went in with just two spin options whereas CSK went in the other direction. After Harbhajan’s initial burst, they bowled 13 more overs of spin to ensure that the pressure was never off RCB. There was turn, there was slowness off the deck and everything in it going against hard hitting. But, perhaps a score of 130 would have still been challenging had someone got stuck in for RCB.
The slide that never stopped
RCB never got anyone to stick around with Parthiv Patel (29). After Harbhajan’s burst, Shimron Hetmyer ran himself out on debut while Imran Tahir and Ravindra Jadeja bowled well in tandem to tighten the screws against the lower order. The last few recognised batsmen, Colin de Grandhomme (caught behind against Jadeja) and Shivam Dubey (caught at slip against Tahir) did little of note to quell the spin-charge, leaving Patel in an unenviable position of batting with the tail, which was simply brushed off.
A spirited defence but to no avail
The target being as low as it was, left Kohli with no option but to go for the kill from the first over. He opened with spin in Chahal and found a spirited Navdeep Saini to roughen up Shane Watson at the other end. Watson’s 10-ball duck was an early ‘win’ for RCB but Ambati Rayudu and Suresh Raina prevented more hiccups with a 32-run stand that put CSK on their way to a comfortable win.
The win was also made sweeter by Suresh Raina becoming the first ever player to score 5000 runs in the IPL.
Where they go next
Chennai’s next fixture will be an ‘away’ one against the revamped Delhi Capitals on Tuesday (March 26) while Bangalore go home to face another IPL heavyweight in Mumbai Indians after a four-day gap.
Brief Scores: Royal Challengers Bangalore 70 (Parthiv Patel 29; Harbhajan Singh 3-20, Imran Tahir 3-9) lost to Chennai Super Kings 71/3 (Ambati Rayudu 28) by 7 wickets