Gaikwad and Faf help CSK crush Punjab

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Kings Punjab has given us memorable moments in this IPL.

Captain KL Rahul has led from the front and managed to galvanize them into a team that doesn’t fear anyone.

But yesterday was one of those days when their performance lacked the usual fluency.

Mayank Agarwal started strongly with a rapid-fire 26 off 15 balls, laced with 5 boundaries. But fell to an intelligent piece of bowling by Ndidi in the 6th over.

Ndidi rolled the fingers over the ball and bowled a short-pitched delivery pitched slightly outside the off-stump. Agarwal, in a spot of momentary indecision, leaned back to play the pull and only succeeded in getting an edge onto his stumps.

But Ndidi wasn’t done yet.

His next victim was KL Rahul who had the indignity of seeing his off stump get uprooted, off a full length slower ball – a beautiful piece of variation. Rahul was clearly disoriented by the previous ball from Ndidi, who had just managed to evade his outside edge.

One expected a big innings from Nicholas Pooran. But Shardul Thakur cramped him for space and got him to nick a faint edge to Dhoni. Pooran’s contribution – A measly 2 off 6 balls!

The collapse turned into a procession when Chris Gayle was caught plumb in front off Imran Tahir, reducing Punjab to a precarious 72 for 4.

Mandeep Singh fluffed up a glorious opportunity to make a difference and fell cheaply for 14, comprising a solitary hit to the boundary.

At 108 for 5, Kings were in real danger of posting a below par score but Deepak Hooda put his hand and struck a brilliant 62 off 30 balls, with 3 fours and 4 sixes.

Punjab finished with 153 for 6. 

Ndidi was the pick of the bowlers with 3 for 39.

CSK start strongly

Du Plessis hasn’t had the best of tournaments but yesterday, he looked determined to make a make a contribution.

Though his play lacked its usual authority, he dug in and soon enough, the runs started flowing.

Fate sided with Du Plessis as Hooda dropped a difficult chance off Neesham when he was on 5. But Faf showed his mettle by swatting the very next ball from Neesham for a huge six!

Faf’s next six was even better.

Bishnoi bowled a good length ball but Faf reached out and sweetly deposited it over the ropes. A sure sign that he was gaining in confidence.

Du Plessis finally fell in the 10th over, miscuing a slow Jordan ball and lobbing a catch to KL Rahul. But by then, he had scored 48 off 34 balls with 4 fours and 2 sixes.

At the other end, Ruturaj Gaikwad continued to impress with yet another half century. His third in a row.

His first six off Jordan was a sight no cricket fan will forget in a hurry!

Jordan dug it short on the leg stump saw Gaikwad getting under it and swiping it over mid-wicket!

The best part of his batting was that he played only proper cricketing shots and his ramrod straight bat, evokes memories of the master blaster, Sachin himself.

Even more impressive is that even while playing quick bowlers like Shami, he seems to have an extra second to play his shot – a sign of real quality.

Ambati Rayudu also provided able support and his partnership with Gaikwad took Chennai home, for the loss of just 1 wicket.

He also offered a chance when his intended cut off Ashwin jumped out of KL Rahul’s gloves in the 15th over.

Maybe, it just wasn’t meant to be Punjab’s day.

Though CSK is effectively out of the reckoning, we are left with a lingering question. Would CSK have performed better had Gaikwad been part of the team, throughout the tournament?

That’s a question for cricket fans to debate.

Cover image credit: Indian Premier League