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Dubai: Chennai opener Ruturaj Gaikwad, cornerstone of the team’s success in the last season, returned to a timely form and guided the defending champions to a 14-run win over Sunrisers Hyderabad aided by a four-wicket haul by Mukesh Choudhary at the MCA Stadium in Pune on Sunday.

The defending champions needed to win all their games to keep their hopes alive and the return of Mahendra Singh Dhoni has brought the much-needed cool composure back in the team. However, fielding is still a huge headache for the men in yellow, who must have dropped at least four chances, two for Nicholas Pooran at crucial stages.

The West Indian left-hander made the most of the dropped chances to reach his half-century and managed to bring the margin down. Pooran remained unbeaten on 64 that included six sixes and three fours. Sunrisers finished with 189/6 after Chennai had 202/2 in 20 overs.

Left-arm pacer Choudhary, who started the slide by dropping Abhishek Sharma early in the innings, made amends with two double-strikes to push the Sunrisers on the backfoot, chasing a mammoth target of 203.

The Chennai Super Kings owe a big thanks to the opening pair of Gaikwad and Devon Conway, who put on 182 runs for the first wicket before the Pune-resident Gaikwad was out when he was just one run short of what would have been a magnificent century. However, this not take anything away from the gem of the knock he produced under pressure.

Gaikwad provided plenty of fireworks before giving Sunrisers their first success of the night. He was particularly severe on Umran Malik and the contest between the two young turks provided an entertaining contest.

Sunrisers’ ascendancy, after a lacklustre start, began with the victory over Chennai Super Kings in the MRC Nagar Derby. The Kane Williamson-led team went on to win five games in a row on the back of their superior bowling before suffering their first loss against Gujarat Titans in a last-ball thriller.

However, this loss must have exposed the Sunrisers’ limitations in the batting unit as they have not chased a big targer after managing to keep their rivals under par scores.

How the game happened

Chaudhary finishes with four-wicket haul

Chaudhary strikes again, not once twice. The left-arm pacer has made it his habit to deal twin blow on Sunrisers. After dismissing Shashank Sharma to almost seal it in Chennai’s favour, Chaudhary bowled the injured Washington Sundar to leave the high-flying team on the mat. Pooran has a mammoth task of scoring runs and also shielding his partners as the asking rate has gone to 25 per over. After 18, SRH are 153/6.

Theeksana’s tidy spell ends

Sri Lankan mystery spinner is enjoying to bowl on a wicket that’s giving plenty of assistance. Theeksana gave away only 4 runs to leave a mountain to climb for Sunrisers batters. Now Pooran is waiting to explode. May be he will do so after the break. But it could also cost his wicket as the increasing asking rate will make him lose his focus. After 16 overs, Sunrisers are 135/4.

A big blow for Sunrisers hope

Skipper Williamson, in a moment of madness, went for a big heave only to miss the ball and was adjudged leg before the wicket off Pretorius. Now the only hope is Pooran. Can he play a blinder in the company of Shashank Sharma. Too much of an ask. After 14.2 overs, 126/4, 77 needed from 34 balls.

Sunrisers need to bring their skates on

Sunrisers reach 100-run mark, but they have taken more overs to reach the stage while also losing more wickets. The asking rate has gone closer to 13 while runs are hard to come by against the spinners with the ball becoming relatively old. After 12, SRH are 102/3.

Santner has the last laugh against Markram

Six, six, out. That’s been the sequence when Markram took the charge and went after Santner. However, the wily New Zealand left-arm spinner had the last laugh when he had the South African mis-time a pull into the hands of Jadeja, who has returned to his former best without the burden of captaincy. This is the last wicket pair that should take SRH closer to the target. So all rests on Williamson and Pooran. After 10 overs, SRH 89/3.

Sunrisers batters living dangerously

Spin, bounce and a dropped chance. It’s all happening at the MCA in Pune. Ravindra Jadeja trouble Williamson with his turn and bounce and the second ball brushed Williamson’s gloves and MSD put down a sharp chance. More runs are coming off the edge than the middle of the bat. Sunrisers batters are living dangerously. After 8 overs, SRH are 72/2.

Chaudhary double strike spell trouble for SRH

Young Abhishekh Sharma’s short innings comes to an end in the penultimate ball of the powerplay. The young left-hander, despite surviving a dropped chance, took the Chennai bowlers on to put the Sunrisers in the chase of the big target. But what followed was close to insanity. Rahul Tripathi, who has been one of the in-form batters for SRH, played an upper cut into the hands of Simarjeet Singh at short third man. Not the shot to play off the first ball. The double strike by Mukesh Chaudhary more than compensates for his dropped chance and has tilted the balance more towards Chennai. After 6 overs, SRH are 58/2.

Santner’s bad luck continues

Left-arm spinner Mitchell Santner, after conceding a six in his first over, lured Abhishek Sharma into a false stroke. The left-hander hit the ball straight into the hands of Mukesh at mid-off, who dropped a sitter. It’s probably the second or third time that Santner has a catch dropped in his first over. After 3 overs, SRH are 36/0. Game on

Perfect start for Sunrisers Hyderabad

Kane Williamson and Abhishek Sharma has started on the right note, punishing the Chennai bowlers and giving the indication that they are not going to go down without a fight. After two overs, SRH are 24/0.

Chennai Super Kings openers Ruturaj Gaikwad and Devon Conway plundered the Sunrisers Hyderabad attack to all parts of the park to give the defending champions a winning total of 202/2 in Match 46 at the Maharashtra Cricket Association ground in Pune on Sunday.

The Sunrisers pace attack has been bringing most of their rival batters into submission with the pace and guile, led by the tearway pacer Umran Malik. But their reputation meant nothing to Gaikwad and Conway, who took their time before going into the overdrive to shred the Sunrisers bowling to pieces.

If one had thought that the Chennai batters will play Umran with caution while attacking the rest, that was not to be. On the contrary, they started counter-attacking Umran and his pace made it even more easier. Gaikwad’s straight drive six and a four were straight out of the copybook. The injury Washington Sundar while attempting a diving stop in the boundary has left a gaping hole on the Sunrisers attack and the introduction of  Aiden Markrem actually gave Chennai batters the toe-hold.

Though Gaikwad missed a well-deserved century by an agonising one run, but this knock is worth its weight in gold and enjoyed every moment with his new opening partner Conway. Gaikwad has had many big partnerships with Faf du Plessis last year and now the Pune-resident seems to enjoying the company of the new opener. Conway has remained unbeaten on 85 and this knock should have given the New Zealand left-hander plenty of confidence going forward.

Despite being a big total, the short square boundaries mean that it is important to bowl at the right areas, especially with Chennai’s death-over specialist Dwayne Bravo missing this contest with an injury.

It remains to be seen, how Sunrisers are chasing such a big target as they have always managed to keep their rivals under par score. A big test for openers Kane Williamson and Abhishek Sharma. However, with slight dew and the wicket on the slower side, it should not be difficult for them if they adopt a slow and steady approach.

Gaikwad falls one run short of a deserving century

Gaikwad, who was like a silent volcano, erupted in the right time but missed his first century of the season by just one run. The opener, who had won the Orange Cap after plundering runs on the UAE grounds, was subdued in his show this season. The Chennai opener cut the ball into the hands of Bhuvnershwar and brought his brilliant 57-ball knock to an end. It should have been a blessing in disguise as skipper Dhoni comes in to a rapturous welcome. After 18 overs, Chennai are 183/1.

A total of 200 plus looks well within reach

Sunrisers must be wondering how to stop the flood of runs. If it’s not 4 and 6s, Gaikwad and Conway run hard to make sure they are not behind in the run rate. Frustrated by the runs, when the Sunrisers bowlers try something different and err in length, they are duly punished. The return of death-over specialist Natarajan, who gave away just seven in his first over, failed stem the run flow and cost 13 runs. After 16 overs, Chennai are 166/0, a total of 200-plus is certainly possible.

Conway reaches half-century

Conway, who started with a flourish, shifted to lower gears and allowed Gaikwad to express himself to the fullest. However, not to be undone, the New Zealand left-hander found his target in Jansen and score 18 runs. CSK after 15 overs are 153/0 for the highest opening stand against Sunrisers. Gaikwad and Conway surpassed the mark set by Shane Watson and Ambati Rayudu in 2018.

Super Kings back on familiar territory

A perfect start has always been the hallmark of Chennai innings. Faf du Plessis and Gaiwad ensured that there were no alarm bells early last year. Though this year it was different for the Men in Yellow, and could not find the same momentum. But as a coincidence, the return of Dhoni as skipper has brought the opening partnership back. Things are falling into the place. After 14 overs, 133/0.

Brilliant exhibition of batting by Gaikwad

Chennai opener Gaikwad has taken Umran Malik apart. Using the pace and the bounce to good effect, the Chennai opener did not commit to any shot early and waited patiently for the offering. Once in the slot, his fast bat swing made the straight connection. What next, the ball sails into the stance. Take a bow. A brilliant exhibition of batting by Gaikwad. Umran’s thre overs have cost 40 runs with no wickets, 17 coming of his last that included 17 runs. Last 5 overs are going to be even more difficult for Hyderabad. After 13 overs, 123/0. Gaikwad is batting on 78 (43 balls) and Conway 38.

Meeting fire with fire

Gaikwad is on fire. Yes, you have to meet fire with fire and that’s exactly what the Chennai opener has done to Sunrisers bowling, which has never faced such a pasting from their rivals this season so far. After 11 overs, Super Kings are 100/0, the opening partnership flourishing and setting the launch pad for the other batters to take it even higher.

Umran’s thunderbolt goes in vain as CSK openers stay firm

Chennai openers are doing anything silly, like attacking Umran Malik. That has made the pacer to try something different and Gaikwad, once again played a brilliant straight-drive four. But the next ball, a 154-km missile, the fastest ball this season, took the top edge and flew over the slips to give the Chennai opener another half-century. The absence of Sundar, who got himself injured while trying to drive and stop a boundary, has left a gaping hole in the Sunrisers attack. After 9 overs, CSK are 86/0.

Gaikwad punishes Umran in first over

Seven overs gone, and comes the 8th over comes Umran Malik. One anticipated a good contest and certainly there’s no shortage for top-class action. However, this time, on the contrary, the hunter is hunted in his first over by a mild-looking Gaikwad. The Chennai opener showed why he topped the batting charts by carting Umran for a four and a straight-drive six to take the score to 60/0, scoring 13 off Umran’s first over. It's going to be difficult for Sunrisers as Washington Sundar has left the field due to injury.

Sunrisers bowlers are not giving much away

Aggressive running and making most of the short square boundaries, Chennai openers have managed to take the score to 40/0 at the end of the powerplay 6 overs. Keeping wickets must be the focus for Chennai as otherwise, Sunrisers would make early inroads, which Umran Malik will make the most of when he comes in. Still, Hyderabad have not given much away.

Cautious start by Chennai openers

Chennai openers Ruturaj Gaikwad and Devon Conway get off to a cautious start against a power-packed Surisers bowling attack. The wicket looks dry, but has a bit of a carry with the new ball. After two overs, Yellow Lions are 9/0. The duo need to show some urgency in the powerplay overs as Umran Malik, the man with the golden arm, send his missiles after them.

Injured Bravo to miss key contest

Sunrisers skipper Kane Williamson wins another toss and elects to bowl first. Hyderabad have retained the same team that lost to Gujarat Titans in a last-ball thriller, while Chennai have omitted Dwayne Bravo, who is not fit, and Shivam Dube. Devon Conway and Simarjeet Singh come into the squad.

Dhoni returns to wield his magic wand

Mahendra Singh Dhoni is back in his familiar role as the skipper of Chennai Super Kings with the primary aim of resurrecting the defending champions fortunes ahead of the Indian Premier League Match 46 against Sunrisers Hyderabad at Maharashtra Cricket Association Stadium in Pune on Sunday.

It’s a role reversal for both teams this season. Hyderabad would be towards the bottom of the table while Super Kings were contesting for the play-off spots last year in the UAE. On the contrary, Sunrisers are in fourth spot, while Chennai are one above the bottom place in ninth spot.

Incidentally, it was the victory in the MRC Nagar Derby, where both teams’ are headquartered in Chennai, that propelled the Sunrisers to the top after two losses in the first two games. After five consecutive wins, the Kane Williamson-led team were halted by the juggernaut Gujarat Titans in the previous encounter.

Umran Malik breathing fire

Hyderabad pacer Umran Malik is breathing fire and will be too hot to handle for the Chennai Super Kings, who have only two wins in eight matches in season 15. The men in Yellow are not in unfamiliar territory. The have won from almost from impossible situation, similar to the current one, where they have made it to the play-offs without losing even one game.

Dhoni has been there and done that. So it could have been one of the primary reasons for the Chennai team management to give the captaincy back to Dhoni and spare Ravindra Jadeja from the extra burden, that has really impacted the all-rounder’s performance.

It’s advantage Sunrisers, but last game showed that they are bad setters. So toss could once again prove crucial as dew played a big part in the game between Mumbai Indians and Rajasthan Royals in Pune on Saturday.