Deepak Chahar would have thought his team’s work was as good as done as he picked up four wickets in his first three overs for Chennai as they overcame the Knight Riders in Mumbai.
But he would have reckoned without the incredible hitting and will to win of Andre Russell and, rather more surprisingly, Patrick Cummins which meant the second match of a double header went down to the last over when it might easily have been done an hour earlier.
Chahar, the right-arm seamer whose level rises whenever there is a bit of swing about, sent back Shubman Gill for a first-ball duck, had Nitish Rana and Eoin Morgan caught by MS Dhoni, the former at square leg as the wicketkeeper took responsibility for a skier, and Sunil Narine snapped up by the irrepressible Ravi Jadeja at short cover. With Lungi Ngidi chipping in with the wicket of Rahul Tripathi, Knight Riders had been reduced to 31 for five.
That’s bad enough in any T20 game but when your opponents have set you a target that requires going at 11 an over, it would be the easiest thing to raise the white flag.
But Russell, the 32-year-old Jamaican built like a lumberjack and wielding the willow as if it were a chainsaw, was not prepared to concede anything and reeled off a series of boundaries of various denominations off Ngidi.
An entertaining but short-lived counterattack seemed the limit of KKR’s ambitions but, quickly, Russell’s raw belligerence brought out the more aggressive side of Dinesh Karthik too and the pair added 81 in six overs. Russell had hit six sixes and three fours in a 21-ball fifty when he neglected to offer a shot to a ball from Sam Curran that he must have judged to be going down the leg-side and heard not the call of wide from the umpire but the death rattle.
That should have signalled the end but Cummins, who needed to produce something to atone for figures of none for 58, added another 34 with Karthik before the wicketkeeper succumbed to a delightfully deceptive slower ball from Ngidi and was lbw.
The Australian and the lower order still needed 74 off five overs but Cummins began to make even the usually dry-palmed Dhoni sweat, laying into Curran in extraordinary fashion, hitting thee sixes in a row, a four and another six to squeeze 30 from the 16th over.
Kamlesh Nagarkoti holed out for a two-ball duck and only five runs – four of them byes – came from the 17th bowled by Ngidi. Still, 40 were needed off three overs and by the time Shardul Thakur had finished that was 28 off two.
Cummins found time to slap Curran, shown great confidence by his captain after his shellacking in the previous over, for another six, over square leg, but the run-out next ball of Varun Chakravarthy as he tried for a second to give Cummins the strike left KKR nine down. With 19 needed off the last Prasidh Krishna tried to do the same, suffered the same fate and CSK, who leapt to the top of the table on net run rate, breathed again.
Earlier, Chennai’s imposing 220 for three was built on an opening stand of 115 as Ruturaj Gaikwad found some form after a series of low scores. He lofted Chakravarthy to Cummins at deep mid-wicket for 64 from 42 balls but his partner, Faf du Plessis went on to the end. He hit two sixes off Cummins’s final over, the first – a back-foot drive with a straight bat that sailed over the extra cover boundary – the shot of the day even in a match of 26 sixes, the second taking him one smaximum short of a hundred. But an inside edge for one left him stranded on 95, not that that was any comfort to Cummins, who was hit for another six on the last ball of the innings by Jadeja, the first and only ball he received.
In the day’s earlier fixture, Jonny Bairstow starred with the bat as the Sunrisers got their first win of the season. He hit an unbeaten 63 as they eased to Punjab Kings’ target of 121 with eight balls to spare in Chennai. Khaleel Ahmed, the left-arm seamer, starred with three for 21 but spare a thought for Punjab’s Nicholas Pooran. Already out for first ball and second ball ducks this season, this time he was run out without facing at all.