Debates were galore as the clock ticked down to 8.00 p.m. on Saturday, the 14th of April, 2012. Who was going to win the 16th match of the IPL? Pune’s team was rife with good bowlers but their batting line up was slightly above average. Pitted against Chennai, whose batting was not only better but had greater depth, Pune didn’t seem to stand much chance. But the evening that had started with conversations and disagreements about which team would be victorious, ended in surprise as Pune sailed through its last few overs to gain a victory that seemed almost certainly out of reach.
Chennai Super Kings won the toss and chose to bat. But they were unable to put up a very impressive batting performance as three of their players – Vijay (8 runs), Raina (20 runs) and Dhoni (26 runs) – could not live up to their expectations. Their saving grace were du Plessis (43 runs) and Jadeja (44 runs). Even with a batting order that demanded high expectations, CSK only reached a score of 155, too less to seal an easy win. So what went wrong? The answer would be Pune’s bowlers and their truckload of variety against which the batsmen of CSK couldn’t hold their own. And once the threat that was du Plessis was removed by Rahul Sharma, CSK’s run rate dropped. But in a rush of motivation, they pushed their score of 129 runs into 155 runs in the last three overs, making the required target 156 runs. PWI’s bowling and fielding had compelled CSK to reach a target that was not difficult. But they still reached a score that Pune hadn’t achieved as yet in the series.
Pune was up to bat and Uthappa opened with Ryder. Uthappa’s dismissal after 10 runs however, threatened to be the beginning of an innings that was not destined to go well. With Ganguly also getting out after 16 runs, Pune’s chances seemed to be dwindling. And although PWI stayed at par with the required run rate initially, Marlon Samuels’ exit pulled down their run rate. The overs progressed and the difference between the required and actual run rate grew. But every time the rate seemed too high to reach, Jesse Ryder and Steve Smith, in their combined play of calm and storm, put the ball past the boundary and regained some control. Ryder, who opened with Uthappa, was the pillar of support that Pune needed. His innings started with a bang and then slowed down to a comfortable pace that helped him make 73 runs and sneak up higher and higher on the score board. On the other end of the pitch was Smith who complemented Ryder’s safe style with shots that forced the ball to sail over the boundary with unimaginable smoothness. And before anyone could realize, PWI were 34 runs away from victory with only 3 overs to go – not an easy feat. Smith and Ryder’s partnership continued to yield and PWI soon required 10 runs from the last 6 balls.
What followed was nothing short of fantastic. Smith’s boundary on the first ball of the last over reduced their requirement to 6 runs off 5 balls. In a moment of excellence, Smith hit the fifth last ball of the game for a six that slipped between the hands of Jadeja as he lunged for a catch and cleared the boundary with ease. And much to the astonishment of CSK and Dhoni, who seemed appalled as his eyes followed the ball over the boundary, PWI won the match. With 7 wickets and 4 balls to spare, PWI walked away with their first ever victory against CSK.
Chennai Super Kings have not been at their best this season. They have potential, but they haven’t been able to tap it to the required extent. Their win against RCB is clear indication of what they’re capable of. All they need to do now is recognize their capability.
Pune Warriors India have surprised everyone. Starting as the underdogs, they won their first two matches. Their third match however, ended in a loss and set off speculations as to whether history was going to repeat itself. But their victory over CSK proved that this team was not the same one as last time and they have no intention of ending at the bottom of the table again.
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