It has become a regular sight to see Mahendra Singh Dhoni stay in the end to see Chennai Super Kings cross the victory line. Tuesday was no different. Pursuing a target of 149 following a batting collapse by Rajasthan Royals, Dhoni, on his home ground in Ranchi, stayed unbeaten on 26 as CSK won by five wickets with two deliveries to spare.
Dhoni experimented by sending R Ashwin higher up the order but the No. 6 batsman was bowled by Rajat Bhatia, forcing the Indian captain to go out and finish the job.
After their bowlers hastened a Rajasthan Royals batting collapse, Chennai Super Kings, though lost initial wickets, did not look in trouble at all. Not till they had Dhoni waiting in the dug out to have a go at the opposition bowlers. Brendon McCullum, who has picked up some bad form in the last three innings including Tuesday's, fell for six but his West Indian opening partner Dwayne Smith continued in the same vein as he has been this league.
Smith, who is closing in on Orange Cup holder Glenn Maxwell, is only 34 shy of the Australian after scoring 44 in 35 deliveries. Rajasthan Royals bowlers tried hard but CSK batsmen would not budge. Though CSK lost wickets and the end became exciting with 12 needed off the last over, Dhoni had his plans well in place. Faf du Plessis was the other CSK batsman who came good with the bat and reduced Dhoni's burden.
Earlier, winning the toss and batting first, Rajasthan Royals got a good start from Ankit Sharma, playing his first IPL match this league after plying his trade for Deccan Chargers in 2012 and Sunrisers Hyderabad in 2013. The Madhya Pradesh all-rounde posted his highest IPL score, 30, and in the company of captain Shane Watson (51, 36b, 3x4, 4x6) shared 60 for the first wicket.
Barring Stuart Binny (22) at No. 5, none of the other Royals batsman including match-winners against Royal Challengers Bangalore two nights ago, Steven Smith and James Faulkner, offered any resistance.
Had the lower order batsmen from Australia score more with the bat and the big hits came, the end result could have been different.
But with Dhoni in the opposition camp, and at his own ground, one cannot be sure.
Following their eighth win in 10 matches, CSK move to the top of the table with 16 points, pushing KXIP (14 points from 9 matches) to second. Royals, on 12 points from 10 games, remain firmly in contention for a play-off berth holding onto their third place.