Published On: Fri, Apr 20th, 2018

Royals fall flat after Watson century

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Chennai Super Kings 204 for 5 (Watson 106, Raina 46) beat Rajasthan Royals 140 all out (Stokes 45, Bravo 2-16, Chahar 2-30) by 64 runs
Scorecard and ball-by-ball details

In a nutshell

For the 1000 odd Chennai Super Kings fans who endured the 26-hour train journey to Pune, this was a night to remember. For Rahul Tripathi, a Pune boy who plays his home games for Maharashtra at the MCA Stadium, this was a night to forget. He put down a regulation catch at slip to reprieve Shane Watson in the first over and then watched him smack the season’s second century, off 51 balls, against his former side with whom he masterminded a fairytale exactly a decade ago.

Watson and Suresh Raina, who replaced M Vijay, came in to bat in the figth over. When they were separated courtesy an outstanding catch by K Gowtham at deep midwicket to remove Raina, they had put on 81 off just 44 deliveries, with CSK were in line to score 240. Some fine end-overs bowling by legspinner Shreyas Gopal and Ben Laughlin, restricted them to 204, but that was hardly any consolation for Rajasthan Royals, who were bowled out for 140 in 18.3 overs.

Watson turns it on

They said he was a spent force. His previous season with Royal Challengers Bangalore was a disaster by any stretch of imagination, just like it was for Thursday’s centurion Chris Gayle. While Gayle came into the tournament with patchy form, Watson was the fifth-highest run-getter (319 runs in 10 matches at a strike rate of 135.16) in the PSL season that finished late last month.

Watson announced himself inside the first six overs. This made generally effervescent Raina look subdued in comparison. But that was only until he launched Ben Stokes for four successive boundaries in the sixth over that allowed CSK to motor to 69 for 1, their highest Powerplay score this season. That was the start of a giant yellow party that continued until the end of the match.

In two of the first three matches, Watson has gotten off to starts, but fell to shots in trying to muscle the ball. Here, there was a calculated effort to bide his time, but that wasn’t at the cost of protecting his wicket. It also helped that the Royals bowlers particularly K Gowtham and Stuart Binny, his former Royals team-mate, kept feeding him with long hops.

Gowtham was smacked for 31 off the 13 balls he bowled to Watson, including three sixes and one four while Binny was taken for three boundaries in an over. Watson profited from the pull, with his strokes in the legside arc between deep backward square leg and long on, fetching him 63 runs in all. This also resonated in his control percentage of over 90.

Watson reached his half-century off a slog sweep for six off his 28th ball. The next 50 took just 23, the landmark coming in the 18th over off a single to wild cheers, manic whistles and a subdued gentle loft of the arms from the man himself. He was dismissed off the penultimate delivery for 106 off 57 balls, courtesy nine fours and six sixes. He slowed down towards the end, making only 16 off the last 11 deliveries he faced, but it didn’t cost them much.

Shreyas Gopal holds his own amid the carnage

In an innings where CSK were motoring along at close to 11 an over for a better part of their first 15 overs, legspinner Shreyas Gopal maintained a tight leash and conceded just two fours in his four-over spell that fetched him 3 for 20. The reward for his persistence were the wickets of Raina and MS Dhoni off successive overs. Then he returned in his final over, the 16th of the innings, to dismiss the in-form Sam Billings. These strikes somewhat softened Watson’s stinging blows at the other end, with Royals managing to put some sort of lid on the scoring in the last seven overs that went for just 54. Gopal’s wickets this season include Virat Kohli, AB de Villiers, Raina and Dhoni.

A forgettable initiation

Tripathi strikes at over 10 an over in the Powerplay, but he’s been preferred in the middle overs because of the presence of D’Arcy Short. On Friday, Royals opened with another middle order batsman, South Africa’s Heinrich Klaasen and saw the move backfire again.

He was dropped by Watson at slip off the second delivery, but couldn’t capitalise. Indecision in footwork resulted cost him big as Shardul Thakur’s length ball skidded through to beat his feeble push and crash into middle stump. Off the next over, Royals’ best batsman this season Sanju Samson fell to the pull shot for 2. When Ajinkya Rahane was bowled after charging down the mitch and missing Deepak Chahar’s knuckleball, Royals were in tatters at 33 for 3 in the fifth over.

Royals’ ‘quantum of defeat’

As steep their task was from there on, Royals’ last hope was the Jos Buttler-Ben Stokes stand. Both had trouble revving up right from the outset. This forced shots out of desperation. While a few came off, like a Buttler six off Imran Tahir that sailed over long on, CSK were always in with a chance. When Dwayne Bravo’s slower delivery felled Buttler, who sliced a catch to point, the chase was well and truly over. Then, Tripathi came out slogging, and fell. Out came the Bravo jig as whatever else Royals did from there on only served to ‘reduce the quantum of defeat’ as MS Dhoni put it the other night. Stokes top scored with 45, when he was out in the 14th over, the wheels truly came off the chase.

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