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Cricket news - Another day in the office for the kings of comebacks

"Dhoni is a great person to learn from and watch how he goes about his innings whether it's setting a total or chasing a total" - Stokes

Chennai Super Kings may be their official team name but if one were to coin a different nomenclature, replacing Chennai with comebacks may not be a bad idea. They aren't strangers to comebacks, in fact they could well be called the masters of it. Having failed to win the title in the first two seasons, they came back strongly to claim the trophy for two successive years. After two years in limbo owing to a suspension, the Super Kings made their biggest comeback by winning the trophy despite not many reckoning that the odds were in their favour considering the average age of the team. That they are able to consistently bounce back and prove their detractors wrong has to do with their ability to rebound from dire situations.

They were in one such situation in their home game against Rajasthan Royals, asked to bat first and being reduced to 27 for 3 in the fifth over. That was when MS Dhoni walked out to bat and led the team's superb comeback with the bat, scoring an unbeaten 75 off 46 deliveries that lifted his team to a strong total of 175 for 5.

As is the case with Dhoni in recent years, he started slowly, scoring less than a run a ball for his first 15 deliveries, with his first boundary only coming off the 17th ball he faced. Having let Suresh Raina score the bulk of the boundaries in a 61-run stand for the fourth wicket, Dhoni was like a solitary hunter, scouting for the prey and waiting for the right time to pounce on it. At the time of Raina's dismissal, in the 14th over, Dhoni had scored only two fours. With Bravo finding the fence at the start of his innings, Dhoni continued to remain quiet, happy to rotate the strike while his lighting running between the wickets continued.

At the end of the 17th over, having added another four to his tally, Dhoni's strike rate was a touch above 100. It reached close to 134 at the end of the 19th over, with the Super Kings skipper registering his maiden fifty against the Royals. He waited until the end to go for the kill, with Jaydev Unadkat turning out to be the unfortunate quarry. While Jadeja started the final over carnage with a maximum, Dhoni completed it with three sixes off the last three legitimate balls of the over to finish with a strike rate of 163.04. Another classic Dhoni finish, this time in setting up a total.

"It's obvious what MS Dhoni does. He's one of the world's greatest finishers who has ever graced the game of cricket," said Ben Stokes, who also reflected on a couple of reprieves and how that could have been a turning point. "Especially when he comes in early, every team knows what he's going to try and do to start with and we tried to attack him. Getting him out was our main objective. There was a dropped catch which you can't blame anyone for - that happens - and the ball hitting the stumps and the bails not coming off.

"Hindsight is a wonderful thing, if you look back at it like that. He just takes it deep as he possibly can. He's a great person to learn from and watch how he goes about his innings whether it's setting a total or chasing a total.Sometimes you got to hold your hand up and say the best players in the world can do that. He certainly showed that tonight," Stokes added.

Stokes did take a leaf out of Dhoni's 'how to take it deep' book but Super Kings' tale of comebacks didn't just cease with their first-innings effort. After being reduced to 14 for 3, there was a fightback from the Royals as well, who also had a 61-run association for the fourth wicket which brought them back into the game. And then there was another Super Kings comeback when they removed the set pair of Rahul Tripathi and Steven Smith in quick succession, with Imran Tahir providing the key breakthroughs.

Stokes, in the company of Jofra Archer, led a counteroffensive - one that appeared would eventually take the game away from the Super Kings and hand them their first loss in six games across seasons. As many as 56 runs were needed off the last 23 deliveries when Archer joined Stokes in the 17th over and they brought it down to 25 off 12. With 12 needed off the final over, the Royals appeared to be in control until the Super Kings turned the table yet again, this time for good. It was a terrific final over from Bravo, who stared with the dismissal of Stokes, ensured that the boundary balls weren't on offer and also picked up the wicket of Shreyas Gopal.

Bravo did all that with so much control, a great achievement considering that the bowlers from both teams were struggling to grip the ball and land it accurately with the heavy dew around. "Bravo is so experienced in those situations, he knows what to do. He's probably one of the best in the world (dealing with such situations). You just got to say 'well bowled' at the end of the day," acknowledged Stokes.

That age is just a number was proven once again by the Super Kings with their three senior pros - Dhoni, Tahir and Bravo - at the helm of their ripostes. Write off experience at your own peril, for they are 'Comeback Super Kings'.

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