Jos Buttler slammed an unbeaten 70 off just 48 balls (7×4, 2×6) to guide Rajasthan Royals to a comprehensive seven-wicket win over Chennai Super Kings at the Sheikh Zayed Stadium in Abu Dhabi on Monday.
Chasing a modest target of 126, Royals started poorly and was struggling at 28 for three before Buttler and Steve Smith (26 n.o., 34b, 2×4) took charge and saw off the chase with 2.3 overs to spare.
The win, the fourth for Royals, keeps the former champion’s hopes of a playoff spot alive while for the Super Kings a seventh defeat means its chances are remote.
Walking in at five, Buttler, slowly but steadily took charge of the chase and was able to pick boundaries easily. Meanwhile, Smith was happy to play second fiddle in their 98-run unbeaten stand for the third wicket.
The Englishman started with a reverse sweep off Ravindra Jadeja before attacking CSK medium-pacers with his powerful shots down the ground. In the 12th over, he hit Shardul Thakur for a boundary over point and followed it up with a six over long-off. Piyush Chawla soon faced the fury of Buttler’s willow going for three consecutive boundaries, the first of which got him to his half-century and effectively sealed the match for the Royals. It was surprising to see CSK rely on its medium pacers than spinners, with Chawla being introduced only in the 13th over.
Electing to bat, CSK lost Faf du Plessis and Shane Watson cheaply to Jofra Archer and Kartik Tyagi respectively by the end of the fourth over.
But the team appeared to build some momentum when Sam Curran and Ambati Rayudu hit six and two fours respectively against Ben Stokes in the fifth over. However, the desire to score briskly soon died down and remained so for a considerable part of the innings.
Coach Stephen Fleming has spoken regularly about batsmen needing to show more intent and skipper M.S Dhoni had even said that he would rather see his team get bowled out while going for shots. Neither men’s words dawned on the players.
While Shreyas accounted for Curran with a googly, forcing the batsmen to scoop to long-off, Tewatia found Rayudu’s top-edge following a half-hearted sweep, .with the wicket-keeper completing the catch.
From 41 for two at the end of the fifth over, CSK managed only 15 runs in the next five, while losing two more wickets. The high number of dot balls CSK played out stood out starkly.
Spin takes over
Between the sixth and 13th overs, the team failed to score any boundaries. The two spinners conceded only 32 runs in eight overs between them and bowled a whopping 23 dot balls.
Unable to accelerate
Dhoni and Jadeja (35 n.o., 30b, 4×4) added 51 runs for the fifth-wicket from 46 balls but struggled to clear the boundary and thus couldn’t accelerate. Jadeja’s late push with a couple of boundaries in the 19th over off Archer helped CSK muster a score of 125 for five. But it was far from the end-overs recovery act the team needed in a must-win game.