Pune: MS Dhoni’s return to captaincy at Chennai Super Kings in IPL 2022 started on a winning note as a mammoth 182-run opening partnership between Ruturaj Gaikwad (99 off 57 balls) and Devon Conway (85 not out off 55 balls) set up the 13-run win of the defending champions over Sunrisers Hyderabad at the MCA Stadium on Sunday.
A large part of the win was due to local boy Gaikwad’s stunning stroke-play against a lethal Hyderabad bowling attack and was well-supported by Conway, who stepped up in time to hit eight fours and four sixes. Ahead of this match, Gaikwad had just one half-century against his name.
But on Sunday, Gaikwad mixed nonchalance and authority to slam six fours and as many sixes to leave the fans, dressed mainly in yellow jerseys, enthralled. With just the third win of the current season in nine matches, Chennai have managed to keep alive their slim hopes of making the playoffs.
A chase of 203 was always going to be a tall order for Hyderabad, who made 46 runs in the first four overs. But they couldn’t get the big scores at the top that Chennai got, eventually ending at 189/6 in 20 overs with Nicholas Pooran top-scoring with an unbeaten 64.
For Chennai, in a Dwayne Bravo-less bowling line-up, left-arm pacer Mukesh Choudhary bagged 4/46 while left-arm spinner Mitchell Santner and pacer Dwaine Pretorius claimed a wicket each.
Abhishek Sharma gave Hyderabad a fast start, making 39 runs off 24 balls, with some boundaries coming off edges and earning a reprieve at 20 when Choudhary dropped a sitter at mid-off. His luck finally ran out when Choudhary had him caught at long-on off a pull, ending the 58-run opening partnership with Kane Williamson.
On the very next ball, Chaudhary cramped Rahul Tripathi for room and the attempted uppercut went straight to short third man. Aiden Markram dispatched Mitchell Santner for back-to-back sixes over long-on but the left-arm spinner had the last laugh, forcing the right-handed better to miscue straight to deep mid-wicket.
Amidst all this, Williamson continued to play the sheet anchor’s role, with a one-handed six coming off the bottom hand going flat over wide long-on against Maheesh Theekshana being the standout shot. But in a bid to accelerate, Williamson was trapped plumb lbw by a slower ball from Dwaine Pretorius, falling for 47 off 37 balls.
Despite some fiery sixes by Nicholas Pooran, including a switch hit off Theekshana, the asking rate had gone beyond Hyderabad’s reach. Choudhary returned in the 18th over to take out Shashank Singh with a thin edge behind to Dhoni and closed the over with Washington Sundar scooping into his stumps.
Pooran slammed two fours off Pretorius and was even dropped on 29 by Santner in the 19th over. He went on to smash Choudhary for a six over cow corner and got his fifty in 29 balls with a slice over backward point. Pooran smacked consecutive sixes over backward square leg and backward point to take 24 runs off the final over. But that couldn’t prevent Hyderabad from slumping to their second successive defeat.
Earlier, a 182-run opening stand between Gaikwad and Conway propelled Chennai to 202/2. The left-right combination established the record for the highest partnership of IPL 2022 and also the highest stand for any wicket for Chennai in the history of the tournament.
For Hyderabad, T. Natarajan was the only bowler among the wickets with 2/42 as the side conceded only 49 runs in the last five overs after being blown away by Conway and Gaikwad. Chennai were off to their slow start, making 46/0 in power-play. But after that, Chennai accelerated superbly, taking 7, 13, 14, 11, 15 and 17 runs in the next six overs.
Gaikwad and Conway took full advantage of Hyderabad being forced to bowl part-time off-spin of Markram, taking him for 36 runs in three overs, as Sundar walked off due to injury to his right hand while trying to save a boundary at deep square leg.
The main aggressor in the post-power-play acceleration was Gaikwad, who produced shots of sheer class to complete his fifty in the tenth over. Post that, Gaikwad unleashed carnage on Hyderabad, thumping Markram over long-on for back-to-back sixes.
He continued to make merry against the raw pace of Umran Malik, with a glorious straight bat chip over mid-off for four followed by cleanly lofting over long-off for a six in the 12th over. Gaikwad was on course to reach his second IPL century but fell short by just a solitary run, slicing a slower, short ball off T Natarajan to Bhuvneshwar Kumar at backward point.
On the other hand, Conway, picking up pace, reached his maiden IPL fifty off 39 balls in the 15th over, getting a top-edge on a pull off Marco Jansen for six. He then thumped the tall left-arm pacer for another four and six to take 20 runs off the over. Conway further slammed Natarajan for a six and two fours in the last three overs to help Chennai go past 200-mark despite Dhoni falling for eight in the final over.
Brief scores: Chennai Super Kings 202/2 in 20 overs (Ruturaj Gaikwad 99, Devon Conway 85 not out; T. Natarajan 2/42) beat Sunrisers Hyderabad 189/6 in 20 overs (Nicholas Pooran 64 not out, Kane Williamson 47, Mukesh Choudhary 4/46, Mitchell Santner 1/36)