'Last Quarter' experts CSK bring back old memories
Once again, it is that team - the Chennai Super Kings, the last quarter experts, who turned the game on its head against the Sunrisers Hyderabad to enter the final of the Indian Premier League 2018 season.
The blueprint created by MS Dhoni was perfect and the rest of the players were able to stick to the plan and fall back when required.
The reason why I call CSK as the last quarter experts is that they always manage to step up their game and perform exceptionally well in the final phase of the game, that is, the final four overs, mainly when it comes to their batting. The way they are able to soak in all the pressure and execute that what is expected of them fascinates me.
Their brilliance in the final phase of the game was what won the game for them against the potent bowling attack of the Sunrisers Hyderabad. They had their backs against the wall and at one point, it looked like SRH would easily win the match, however, they turned it around in the 18th over of the match when Carlos Brathwaite was taken apart by Faf du Plessis.
What was interesting to see is how Shardul Thakur showed positive intent when he came out to bat at such a tricky time during the chase, and all credit goes to him for keeping his nerve.
The 18th over of the 2nd innings was where it all went wrong for Sunrisers. They had bowled exceptionally well till then and stuck to the plan perfectly. And Kane Williamson thought that his plan to bowl Brathwaite in the 18th over would work as he looked extremely confident about it, however, it did not go according to plan at all.
On the other hand, there would have been a few people to question MS Dhoni's decision to send Faf du Plessis at the top of the order and drop Ambati Rayudu, who was in such great form, to number 4 in the batting line-up. However, the move turned out to be a match-winning one for CSK as Faf carried his bat through the innings and led his side to a famous victory.
In the end, it was a great contest of skill vs skill as the bowling departments took the lead from both the sides. Once again, Rashid Khan showcased what he is capable of and it honestly quite surprising to see figures of 4-0-11-2 on the losing side.
What was also great to see was that the roles were followed by both the sides. Carlos Brathwaite, for one, followed his role with perfection as he finished the innings for the Sunrisers. Unfortunately for them, the middle order was exposed once again and that was where they lost the game.
Favourites to win the tournament?
The return to the IPL final after a two-year ban is a great script for CSK. It would have been the perfect script for the tournament if the Rajasthan Royals went on to reach the final as well and given us a repeat of the inaugural season. Unfortunately, it was not meant to be.
Another reason why CSK have performed so well this season is, of course, the Dhoni factor. Apart from him being at his vintage best with the bat, his captaincy has been spot on, once again. The calmness with which he has led CSK is remarkable. The Dhoni-Fleming partnership, too, has been one of the guiding factors in CSK's success over the years.
Players have walked into the side and have performed beyond expectations under the leadership of the dynamic duo. Cricketers like Ambati Rayudu and Shane Watson, both, who were expected to have a poor season, ended up being amongst the top performers in the side. It is also great to see Deepak Chahar taking on his role with aplomb. He has been a revelation with the new ball, swinging it both ways and picking up wickets in the first six overs of the innings.
Dhoni himself has been in phenomenal form with the bat, scoring runs aplenty and demolishing the opposition bowlers all around the park. His performances with the bat have lifted the entire team's confidence and have given them that extra push on the field.
All in all, everything has ticked for CSK this season. Players are peaking and someone is always standing up when it matters most and they have produced the goods when needed. After the victory against the Sunrisers Hyderabad, they are surely the hot favourites to win the tournament this time around. We can expect a sea of yellow to flood the Wankhede Stadium on May 27, and that man, MS Dhoni, to lift the title once again.