CSK'is The First Loss This Season At Home, Just A Small Blip > Cricket News, cricinfo, mobilecric, cricbuzz, livescore and more
Cricket news - CSK's first loss this season at home may only be a minor blip
There is something that brings the best out of Mumbai Indians when they're up against the Chennai Super Kings. In the 26 matches they have featured against each other (including yesterday's encounter), they hold a 15-11 win-loss record, comfortably Chennai's worst head-to-head count against any franchise in the Indian Premier League (IPL). At the MA Chidambaram stadium, Rohit Sharma's men hold a slight, but significant 4-2 advantage. In short, Mumbai Indians are perhaps the only visiting team that enjoys playing at 'Fortress Chepauk'.
Having enjoyed a five-day break after their disappointing defeat to the Rajasthan Royals, the Rohit Sharma-led team looked hungry for success. It was a crucial encounter for them; a win would place them with a degree of comfort in the points table and most importantly, open up a four-point lead over the fourth placed Sunrisers Hyderabad (who have played one match less).
Today's emphatic win sends a message across to the other teams: the Mumbai Indians are going to be difficult to beat. It's supported by arithmetic progression as well - after all, they had previously won the cash-rich tournament in 2013, 2015 and then in 2017.
It also helped that plenty of things went their way - the most pivotal of which being the absence of MS Dhoni with sickness. It not only robbed the hosts of their mastermind, their best batsman this season, but also brought in instability to the batting order. To add to their woes, Ravindra Jadeja missed out with the same reason too, that led to a large-scale reshuffle in the batting order. A straight swap between Jadeja and Mitchell Santner meant CSK had to sacrifice one overseas bat and it turned out to be Faf du Plessis. It also forced a new opening combination with Murali Vijay playing his first match of the season. It also opened up a 'big hole in the middle-order' as Dhruv Shorey played his first game of the season too. Dwayne Bravo had faced all of 32 balls before tonight, while Santner - despite his match-winning six against the Royals - had faced a sum total of three balls.
"If we do have situations that don't go our way, we should have the experience of dealing with it; which we haven't at the moment. I think what concerns me is repetitive mistakes we made many times this season. The fact that we are still at the top of the table is a testament to bowlers and individual performances. We don't want to wait until it's too late, we have two games left and hopefully the finals, we should be able to pull off a team performance", coach Stephen Fleming said, speaking about the unexpected loss of Dhoni and Jadeja.
Suresh Raina is an admirable deputy to Dhoni and he has even led an IPL franchise - the Gujarat Lions - with aplomb, taking them to a table-topping position in their inaugural season. However, the elegant left-hander hasn't had the same amount of success with the franchise that he has been associated with since 2008. Going into today's game, he has won only one IPL match in his four outings as captain and the trend continued with another poor defeat. To be fair on the southpaw, he didn't get too many things wrong. In fact, he did remarkably well to drag the visitors back after they had raced to 79 for 1 at the end of the ninth over.
With the pitch slowing down considerably, he brought his spinners into play - Imran Tahir was slightly expensive, but Santner loves such conditions. Remember 2016 T20 WC opener against India at Nagpur? Here, he spun a web around MI's batsmen with clever changes in pace and variation. Add the inconsistent bounce and awkward turn, he turned out to be a handful. The New Zealander finished with impressive figures of 2 for 13 as the hosts had hit back, conceding 59 runs in the stretch between over number 10 and 19 - before Hardik Pandya and Kieron Pollard took Dwayne Bravo for 17 in the last. Still, 155 was a decent job done, and Raina's captaincy deserved credit.
If there's something that can't be explained in this IPL, it's the way this Chepauk track has behaved. After the relative run-fest against Sunrisers Hyderabad, it went back to its normal ways tonight. This was the same pitch on which the Royal Challengers had crumbled to 70 all-out in the first game and that would have given both captains an idea before the game - but there was one major non-factor - the dew. With 'Cyclone Fani' expected to hit the city over the weekend, the heat wave has receded over the past couple of days and that has meant cooler temperatures at night.
It also meant that the ball spun sharply despite dew coming into play during the latter half of the match. In hindsight, was it a bat first pitch? "Stats say that it's easier to bat second on this pitch", reckoned Fleming, refuting suggestions that the spin-heavy home attack could have looked at defending a score.
Chasing 156, the Super Kings needed a good start, instead, they lost Shane Watson in the first over. Then, stand-in captain, Raina, slogged aimlessly and mindlessly to be caught at backward point. Ambati Rayudu and Kedar Jadhav ensured that MI didn't need to sweat on their wicket, Shorey got caught up in the mood and the hosts had lost half their side for just 60 runs at the end of the 10th over - this despite Mumbai being generous in the field. Another batsman playing his first game of the season, Vijay, made 38, Bravo and Santner, who have had the least amount of batting in this CSK line-up, then had the task of scoring 90 runs from 50 balls, a task well beyond their means.
Fleming though believed that the least his middle and later-order batsmen bat, it's better for the team, for "it means the top order is doing its job". Unfortunately, he also averred that unlike last season, when the team benefited from the form of Rayudu and Watson, the 'holes in the middle order' have opened somewhat and that meant his top order needed to be more greedy.
So, will Vijay get an extended run at the top of the order? Fleming was non-committal, arguing that the policy of backing selected players had held the franchise in good stead. "The consistency in the selection has given us fruits, Watson (in the last match) was a good example of that. Vijay has been on the fringe throughout the tournament, he's trained well, today was an opportunity for him, he batted well but he also had a chance to win the game for the team with an innings of 75*. We will back our international players as much as we can, but you'll have to earn your place in this team", Fleming added bluntly.
The end result meant the Mumbai Indians vaulted past Delhi Capitals into the second position. Both teams have 14 points from 11 games each, but Rohit's men edge ahead by virtue of a better net run-rate. CSK are still ahead in the race for the top two - but they are up against Delhi Capitals next - their final game at home. Could that prove to be the game that decides which team finish in the top two?
For now, the Super Kings have four days to work on their shortcomings, enough time to ensure that the flaky middle order returns to shape. Before yesterday, CSK had last lost an IPL match at Chepauk to the Mumbai Indians in 2015. Suspension and a stadium ban has meant that the record lasted as long as it did, the five-match home winning streak of this season is also over, but if CSK do follow the methodology of their coach and captain, this might prove to be only a minor blip.
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