Chennai: As Andre Russell hurtled towards his 36-ball unbeaten 88, it wasn’t clear whether Chennai Super Kings skipper Mahendra Singh Dhoni was in a dilemma over bowling choices due to the Caribbean enforcer or was forced due to a docile MA Chidambaram Stadium pitch.
Dhoni, marking his emotional return after two years to CSK’s den, used five bowlers in the power play overs and had Kolkata Knight Riders five-down at the halfway mark, yet used spinners Harbhajan Singh and Ravindra Jadeja for only two overs each.
Dhoni (25) joined forces with England limited-overs specialist, Sam Billings (56) in a 54-run stand as CSK overhauled KKR’s huge 202/6 with a ball to spare.
For the fifth straight game in IPL 2018, the team electing to bowl first had successfully chased down a total with CSK finishing on 205 for five in 19.5 overs.
Billings, the 26-year-old who replaced the injured Kedar Jadhav in the team, seized the chance with his new franchise. His sheer timing, clean hitting and matching Dhoni in taking quick singles stood out. And he gave Russell the treatment the Caribbean all-rounder had meted out to the CSK bowlers. The best was a scooped six followed by a straight one into the stands.
He fell with CSK needing 19 runs off eight balls, but with CSK needing 17 off the last over, seamer Vinay Kumar turned villain. He conceded a six off a no ball, two off the free-hit, and a wide later, leaving the home team winners with a ball to spare. Needing four off two, Jadeja sealed it with a six.
Earlier, one innings stood out in the KKR innings – that of Andre Russell. The big Jamaican walked in to bat after ten overs – by which time KKR were reduced to 89-5. He began slowly, scoring 10 off the first 11 balls he faced, but then switched gears at an instant. He was cautious against Imran Tahir, but swatted length deliveries off the seamers, and hit effortless sixes. One of his 11 sixes in this match was measured as the longest six hit in this season’s IPL.
Russell did to Dwayne Bravo what Bravo had done to the Mumbai Indian bowlers in the season opener; he scored 41 runs off 14 balls off him, and hit him for 6 sixes – including on one occasion a hat-trick of sixes. Shardul Thakur received tap too, conceding 27 runs off the 7 balls he bowled to Russell.
Russell finished unbeaten on 88 – his highest score in the IPL, and the highest score by any batsman batting at #7 in the IPL.
KKR had three useful contributions in their innings. Chris Lynn made a breezy 22; the Australian struck four boundaries in his 16-ball knock which ended when he was castled by Ravindra Jadeja in the sixth over.
Robin Uthappa was hitting the ball well and struck 2 fours and 3 sixes in his 16-ball 29 which ended when he was involved in a mix-up in running. Karthik, who was involved in a 76-run stand with Russell, made 26 from 25 balls.
As was expected prior to the match, spin bowlers emerged the best bowlers in the match. Watson returned CSK’s most successful bowler with figures of 2-39, but Harbhajan Singh (1-11) were the team’s most economical bowlers.