Dhoni’s fifty goes in vain as Rahane gets KKR going in successful chase in IPL opener

A two-wicket powerplay burst by Umesh Yadav followed by Chennai Super Kings’ mid-innings stumble and struggle to score against spin meant they put up only 131 despite MS Dhoni’s fifty. Riding on Ajinkya Rahane’s 44, Kolkata Knight Riders cantered to the target to beat the defending champions in the opening game of the Indian Premier League 2022 by six wickets.

Dhoni brings the crowd alive

MS Dhoni is nearing 41 and hadn’t played a competitive game since the IPL 2021 final last October. And he walked in at 61 for 5 against Varun Chakaravarthy and Sunil Narine, two spinners he has found perhaps the hardest to tackle over the years. The crowd – despite the restricted capacity which meant the bottom tiers were almost entirely vacant – began to cheer for him as soon as he started to descend the dressing-room steps. Even as Dhoni scratched to 2 off 10, the crowd tried to get him going by chanting his name. Meanwhile, Narine kept ripping carom balls past his outside edge. Dhoni’s first boundary came off a misfield at mid-off but even then, he was on 15 off 25 going into the final three overs.

Finally, to the fans’ utter delight, he woke up, prospering against the pace of Andre Russell and Shivam Mavi even as the dew began to make an impact. He delayed his cut and slap-pull to beat the sweeper and deep square leg respectively. He lunged at a dipping full toss to ensure he sliced over extra cover into empty spaces. The highlight was an almost-helicopter clip off Russell that split the gap between deep midwicket and long-on for four. Dhoni would end on 50 off 38, his first half-century in the IPL in three years. It increased CSK’s innings run-rate marginally from 5.55 to 6.55, and would make no difference to the outcome of the game, but it did bring Wankhede alive for a while. Dhoni’s acceleration was also noteworthy as the man who replaced him as captain, Ravindra Jadeja, managed an unbeaten 26 off 28.

Umesh bosses the powerplay

Umesh Yadav did not get a single game in IPL 2021. He got a mere two games in IPL 2020. But with Pat Cummins and Tim Southee unavailable for this game, he was right in the mix for the IPL 2022 opener. KKR coach Brendon McCullum had spoken about his solid powerplay record due to his ability to swing the new ball and take early wickets.

And Umesh set the tone right at the start of the tournament with a somewhat erratic — not out of character – opening over interspersed with some seriously good deliveries. At the end of the powerplay, his figures read 3-0-12-2. The very first delivery was a no-ball and a couple of wides were to follow in the first over. But he also kept the batsmen guessing, getting one to cut in and cramp them and then getting the other to swerve away sharply.

Ruturaj Gaikwad followed one such massive curler that was headed head high to the lone slip and only managed to tickle it through. The left-handed Devon Conway wasn’t allowed room to hit to his strengths square of the wicket. Off the first ball of Umesh’s third over, a frustrated Conway tried giving him the charge but only ended up chipping tamely to mid-on.

On another night, Umesh will inevitably go for runs but on the first night of the league, he was completely switched on.

CSK stumble

After Umesh’s strikes had left CSK at 28 for 2, Robin Uthappa had sort of revived them to 49 for 2 in the eighth over. It wasn’t a blitz but Uthappa had played a lovely pick-up off Umesh that just sailed over the deep square leg boundary, and was looking in reasonably good nick. Ambati Rayudu had just launched Chakaravarthy casually beyond the deep extra cover rope.

Then Uthappa – probably attempting one of his walk-and-tap singles to long-on – walked past a Chakaravarthy wide that slipped down the leg side and was stumped. Next over, Rayudu was run out after a mix-up with Ravindra Jadeja, who first began to jog, causing Rayudu to respond, and then abandoned the idea. Local man Shivam Dube came in and immediately tried to take on Andre Russell’s heavy short ball that got big on him and spooned it to short midwicket. In the space of three overs, CSK had gone from 49 for 2 to 61 for 5. And fortunately for them, the score could have been worse had KKR capitalised on a couple more run-out opportunities. The situation would allow Chakaravarthy and Narine to get in some more quiet overs to finish with a combined damage of only 38 runs in their 48 deliveries.

Rahane seals the deal

Ajinkya Rahane may have lost his India Test spot but he can still be pretty useful in such middling T20 chases. His 44 off 34 at the top of the order effectively shut CSK out and ensured KKR had the buffer to absorb some blows along the way. Rahane was typically strong through extra cover and straight down the ground but the standout was a pull off Adam Milne that ended in the upper tier beyond deep square leg. He even brought out the reverse-sweep for four against Jadeja, but gave it away when he whipped Mitchell Santner straight to midwicket.

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