Shane Watson
Shane Watson of the Chennai Super Kings drives against the Kings XI Punjab in Match 18 of IPL 2020 at the Dubai International Cricket Stadium on October 4, 2020. Image Credit: BCCI

The Chennai Super Kings got going when the going got tough. Three losses in four matches, the three-time champions had their backs to the wall. Look how well they responded. The ruthless 10-wicket over Kings XI Punjab firmly put to rest all the swirling reports of fragility.

When a team is battered and bruised, there no better balm than an emphatic victory. Perhaps this could well be the turning point in Chennai’s fortunes. A crunching win like this can often catapult teams to greater heights.

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The Punjab total of 178 was by no means an easy target. It needed the strong start which Chennai had been missing. The lofty target seemed to have spurred Shane Watson (83 off 53 balls) and Faf du Plessis (87 off 53) into action in the powerplay. After a few scratchy shots, Watson began to strike more cleanly, and Du Plessis just built on his excellent run of scores. Once they got going, the result was never in doubt.

Skipper Mahendra Singh Dhoni was effusive in his praise for the Chennai bowlers. When KL Rahul (63 off 52 balls) and Nicholas Pooran (33 off 17) were in full flow, a total close to 200 was a distinct possibility. If it was not for Shardul Thakur’s brilliant bowling in the 18th over, when he took out Rahul and Pooran off successive deliveries, Chennai could have been chasing a bigger total.

That wouldn’t have mattered since Watson and Du Plessis were in such good form that they seemed capable of chasing down any total.

While Chennai bask in the afterglow of a spectacular victory, Rajasthan were left to lick their wounds. They did a lot of things right, particularly the batting where openers Rahul and Mayank Agarwal put on 61 runs, and later Pooran weighed in. But the final flourish never came in the death overs with Glen Maxwell’s struggles casting a question mark on his value to the side.

The poor bowling only added to Punjab’s woes. Mohammad Shami and Sheldon Cottrell were unable to replicate their success in the opening spell and, except Ravi Bishnoi, none looked like taking a wicket. That was the effect of the Watson- Du Plessis pounding.

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More worrying was the body language during the Chennai onslaught. Shoulders dropped, fielding erred. Can’t blame the players entirely. Yet these are defining moments. Moments that separate champions from the also-rans. A drastic change in tactics or an expected move is called for when all else fails. That never came.

Punjab seemed to have given up long before the match ended. That’s not good for their campaign. All is not lost. There’s still plenty to play for.