Gritty half-centuries from Ambati Rayudu and Faf du Plessis helped Chennai Super Kings (CSK) kick-start their IPL 2020 campaign in style as they outsmarted the defending champions, Mumbai Indians (MI), by 5 wickets.
Chasing a tricky target of 163 runs for victory, CSK got off to a horrid start as they lost both of their openers within the first two overs. With the run-chase briskly sliding off-track, Rayudu and Du Plessis got together to consolidate things and strung together a sublime partnership of 115 runs that twirled the game on its head. MS Dhoni's men scripted two brilliant comebacks this evening to end their long-lasting victory drought against MI.
Earlier in the first innings, MI were cruising courtesy a dazzling opening partnership between Quinton de Kock and Rohit Sharma. They were 113/3 in the 13th over and looked set for an above-average total before CSK's bowlers pulled things back superbly and restricted them to just about par. This is now the eighth straight year that MI have lost their opening match of the IPL season.
None of our batsmen carried on for us, like du Plessis and Rayudu did for CSK. I think we were 85 in the first 10 overs. Credit to the CSK bowlers, they bowled well at the end to pull things back. Something for us to learn. Still early days. We all want to start really well, it's crucial in this tournament where momentum is important. Few things for us to learn from this game, we did make few mistakes. Hopefully we'll rectify those and come out smarter in the next game. We are used to people cheering for us, and we knew this (empty stands) was on the cards. Anyway, this is the new normal, but I hope for a while and hope that things get better soon. We need to adapt to the pitches, it got better with the dew coming. You need to hit the gaps and focus on that part of the game. The opposition can tie you down, it's all about understanding what we need to do.
It doesn't feel like a post-match presentation. We may practice enough but when you go on the field you need to assess the conditions and give it your best. It took us time for the bowlers to find the right length on this pitch. Plenty of positives but still plenty of areas for us to improve. In the second half there is a bit of movement till the dew sets in. If you don't lose wickets, you have the upper hand. These are the learnings. Rayudu had a wonderful partnership with Faf. Most of us are retired so luckily no injuries as well. The experience pays off, everyone talks about it. You get it only after you play a lot of games. 300 ODIs is a dream for anybody to play and when you put an XI on the field, you need a good mix of youngsters and experienced players. You need the experienced players to guide the youngsters on and off the field. The young players get 60-70 days with the seniors in the IPL. One thing we haven't done is giving a chance to Jadeja and Curran to come up the order and express themselves which is what we did today. It was a psycological thing of saying that okay, we have batsmen down, so we'll send one or two of them up to hit a few. It is an amazing job done by the IPL, especially ones behind the scenes. To make it happen there are a hundred different things; as cricketers we easily criticize stuff. To have the practice facilities like these at the ICC academy were fantastic. Unless you get practice facilities you won't play well in a tournament like this.
Sam Curran was exceptional in his debut appearance for CSK. During the first innings, he helped stem the flow of runs by plucking out the crucial scalp of De Kock who was looking in lethal touch right from the word go. Not only that, Curran strolled in to bat at the rear-end of CSK's run-chase and smashed it around, concatenating 18 vital runs to CSK's total while consuming only 6 deliveries. Here is what the debutant had to say after the game:
I was actually really excited when I was coming to Chennai. Haven't met a lot of guys, haven't had much to think, landed two days ago and straight out there. To be honest, very surprised I went in but he's a genius, he [MS Dhoni] obviously thought something. I think so [left-right combo], that was the over we wanted to target - a six or out approach. We targeted that over (18th) and I went in with a six or out mentality... sometimes it comes off and sometimes it doesn't.
Ambati Rayudu was the Man of the Match for his game-changing 71 off 48 deliveries. Here is what he had to say in the post-match presentation:
I kept training in the lockdown. It was a stop-start but I was really eager. When the dew came on batting became much easier. We practiced in Chennai which really helped and then in Dubai as well.
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Here are the reactions from the cricket fraternity on the first game of IPL 2020: