At the halfway stage, the Chennai Super Kings seemed to cruise towards the target with the experiences of Watson and Rayudu well set, at the crease. The Kolkata Knight Riders on the other hand, who had reserved their spinners for the later overs seemed honing a conservative approach. Eventually, their strategy to keep spinners for the end helmed success as Kolkata restricted Chennai 10 runs short of the target. With the wear and tear, the Abu Dhabi wicket got slower and slower and the ball did not quite come on to the bat.
Being played in the UAE, the pitches were expected to slow down as they were used and as the weather got cooler. The result today seemed like an indication of the start to the change in nature of the pitches. If it is to be any sign of days to come, both finger spinners as well as the leggies are sure to have a fruitful IPL.
First Innings: Chennai Bowlers manage to pull back Kolkata’s momentum by the end
Rahul Tripathi’s promotion at the top came in as a welcome change for the Kolkata Knight Riders. The right hander who showed a glimpse of his abilities in the unsuccessful run-chase against Mumbai at Sharjah, continued his sublime form. He smashed the balls to all parts of the ground right from the word go, particularly taking the attack to Chennai’s most dependable bowler Deepak Chahar. He was well supported by a cameo from Sunil Narine, who dropped to number 4 in the order. At the end of 10 overs, KKR were at 93/2 with a score in excess of 190 in sights.
CSK’s veteran bowlers, Chahar and Bravo had both gone for plenty in their first spells. The introduction of Karn Sharma into the attack had helped slow things down. The discipline from Shardul Thakur and Sam Curran on the other hand had also yielded success in stopping boundaries. The trio also managed to pick a couple of wickets due process leaving KKR at 128/4 with 5 overs remaining. The likes of Russell and Tripathi on the crease with Dinesh Karthik to follow meant the stage was set for KKR to unleash. However, it was not meant to be. The Chennai bowlers varied the line, length as well as the pace of the ball exceedingly well handling Kolkata their first all out of the season. The team had only managed 39 of the last 5, losing 6 wickets and setting a modest total of 167 on board.
Second Innings: The blistering start to the runchase is subdued by the Kolkata bowlers
The second half of Kolkata’s innings was proof to the wicket getting a touch slower. It was therefore imperative for the CSK openers, Shane Watson and Faf du Plessis to get them off to a flier. The top order comprising the duo and Ambati Rayudu had to make sure that they took the game deep leaving only a little for their fragile middle order. At the 12 over mark, CSK were 99/1 and almost cruising towards the target. However, Nagarkoti dismissed Rayudu in the 13th over and Narine got the better of Watson in the next.
Two quick wickets brought Dhoni and Curran onto the crease and gave Kolkata a space to breathe. Both Narine and Chakravorthy chipped in with a few quiet but useful overs in the middle. The pressure of the required run-rate kept increasing forcing Dhoni, Curran and everyone else to slog for boundaries.
The 18th over of the innings went for only 2 runs as Kolkata grappled the Chennai batters even further. Though, late fireworks from Jadeja did some good to his individual confidence, they were never enough as Chennai lost yet another controllable run-chase by 10 runs.
Toss and the Conditions playing their part:
Most matches now would be played back on the used pitches with only limited venues available. The likelihood of spinners playing a crucial role in the second innings might have perhaps been a reason for KKR to bat first. Interestingly, the last time KKR won the toss to bat first came as many as 69 matches and 5 years ago.
The hard and dry wickets that we all are used to seeing this IPL have arguably started to switch themes. After a few high-scoring games, a few have gone quiet in the recent past. While the set batsmen have still managed to make the most of their opportunities, there have been times of struggle and survival as well, a site that was deemed rare at the start of the tournament. The gradual decrease in the temperatures, the change in the conditions and the inclusion of afternoon games on weekends has helped increase the wear and tear of the pitches.
Perspectively, the bowlers have also found their ideal line and lengths to bowl and have managed to attain consistency. The spinners especially have started to witness some turn on offer and have been difficult to score off. The last week has also seen a few 3-fers and 4-fers from the bowlers. Though it remains too early to conclude that it is the change in nature of the pitch that has aided the shift in momentum, one senses the pivotal resurgence of the bowlers in this year’s IPL already.