The Indian Premier League (IPL) encounter between the Chennai Super Kings (CSK) and Kolkata Knight Riders (KKR) pitted two teams following opposite trajectories. While Eoin Morgan's KKR suffered two disappointing defeats after a strong display in their first game, MS Dhoni's CSK entered the match having won their last two encounters comfortably to make up for a first-game shellacking.
Though Morgan had talked up the prospect of KKR moving to Mumbai, where the faster wickets would suit their batsmen more, the match didn't quite turn out the way KKR would have liked.
Conceding 220 in their first essay before getting reduced to 31 for 5 in the sixth over dealt a crushing blow to KKR's chances. Although the match completely changed from there, CSK escaped by a hair's breadth as Pat Cummins ran out of partners in the end.
The lower-middle order assault by KKR masked what was otherwise a horrible performance by the two-time champions. Here are the three biggest reasons why they lost against CSK on April 21.
3. Lack of wickets in the powerplay for KKR
Ruturaj Gaikwad was hanging on a knife edge with regards to his place in the CSK team. In any other franchise, his indifferent seasons would have seen him replaced by an experienced player. However, CSK's stubborn backing of the youngster finally paid off against one of the less penetrative bowling attacks of the tournament.
Gaikwad, who had struggled during the powerplay in each of his three previous innings, got off to a flier thanks to the pitch being near-perfect for batting, and KKR's pacers looking for the hard lengths rather than the early swing on offer.
The outcome was Gaikwad and Faf du Plessis getting underway with their fine innings, and KKR emerging wicketless from the powerplay for the first time this season.
2. CSK's batsmen plunder runs at the death
CSK maintained a run rate of about 10 for most of their innings, and as it turned out, that could well have been chased down by KKR. It was in the last four overs, with Moeen Ali falling in the 17th over, that KKR had an opportunity to restrict the Men in Yellow to about 190-odd with some precise bowling - particularly with MS Dhoni promoting himself in a surprise move.
However, KKR continued to leak runs through their pacers in the final three overs. Prasidh Krishna overstepped twice in the same over, allowing MS Dhoni to free his arms and stun KKR with a little blinder. CSK were helped by some abysmal fielding by KKR, epitomised by a dropped catch parried over the boundary for six off the final ball of the innings.
1. KKR's top five collapse under pressure
The biggest differentiator between the way CSK started their effort with the ball, and the way KKR did, was the amount of swing extracted by Deepak Chahar. In an inauspicious start, Shubman Gill perfectly sliced a wide outswinger into the hands of Lungi Ngidi, while Nitish Rana, KKR's in-form opener, nicked off tamely to MS Dhoni behind the stumps.
Although Sunil Narine did well for the most part with ball in hand, he could not replicate his heroics with the bat. Eoin Morgan and Rahul Tripathi too fell to leave KKR gasping.
Though we witnessed a fightback for the ages from Pat Cummins, Dinesh Karthik and Andre Russell, there was just a little too much for the trio to do, with no support from the top five and not a single run contributed by the tail.