By Suhas Nayse – SJFI Member
Under pressure to perform after a series of poor scores so far, Shane Watson answered his critics in style with a magnificent unbeaten knock of 83 to steer Chennai Super Kings to a massive ten-wicket victory against Kings XI Punjab at the Dubai International Cricket Stadium on Sunday.
Watson, in the company of opening partner Faf du Plessis, guided CSK to a fantastic win, the best in the Dream11 Indian Premier League this season.
It was a treat to watch the experienced openers batting. They coasted along nicely with some top class stroke making against the opposition bowlers. The old and trusted pair also ensured the victory after the last year’s runners-up tasted three consecutive losses.
Chasing a target of 179, Watson (83 not out: 53 balls, 11×4, 3×6) and Faf du Plessis (87 not out: 53 balls, 11×4, 1×6) put on the highest ever first-wicket partnership of 181 runs for CSK. The 39-year-old Aussie and the 36-year-old South African du Plessis exhibited courage, character and perseverance in chasing down the target with 14 balls to spare. Both the players played an equal number of balls (55) and smashed equal number of fours (11)!
This is the second occasion CSK have won a match by 10 wickets in the IPL history. It was a record partnership for the first wicket as the duo broke the 169-run record of Michael Hussey and Murali Vijay.
Earlier, KXIP skipper KL Rahul won the toss and elected to bat. An opening 61-run stand between Rahul and Mayank Agarwal guided Kings XI Punjab to a competitive total of 178 for 4.
With this big win, CSK have now jumped from bottom to sixth spot with four points from five matches, while Kings XI Punjab slipped to eighth and last place with just a couple of points to their credit.
The fourth defeat in five matches will make Rahul’s side task more difficult. KXIP have only twice made the playoffs in 12 seasons — 2008 and 2014 — and are yet to win the IPL title.
Despite having the top two run-getters – Rahul (302 runs) and Agarwal (272 runs) — and two of the top wicket-takers — Mohd Shami (8 wickets) and Sheldon Cottrell (6) –, KXIP have struggled to fire as a unit under the guidance of experienced coach Anil Kumble. They will have to come up with some extraordinary performance in the remaining ties to make the top-4.
On Monday, Royal Challengers Bangalore will square off against Delhi Capitals at the same ground. Both have six points to their credit from four matches.
Brief scores: Kings XI Punjab 178 for 4 in 20 overs (KL Rahul 63, Nicholas Pooran 33, Mandeep Singh 27, Mayank Agarwal 26, Sarfaraz Khan 14 not out, Glenn Maxwell 11 not out; Shardul Thakur 2-39, Piyush Chawla 1-22, Ravindra Jadeja 1-30) lost to Chennai Super Kings 181 for 0 in 17.4 overs (Faf du Plessis 87 not out, Shane Watson 83 not out) by ten wickets. Man-of-the-match: Shane Watson (CSK).