The equation is simple for Chennai Super Kings now. As they suffered their sixth defeat of the season, the latest being the one against Delhi Capitals on Saturday, the Super Kings are staring at the possibility of not qualifying for the play-offs for the first time in their history.
There is only one way they can still get past the group stage, and that is by winning each of their remaining five matches. Given how far they are lagging behind other teams, even a brave punter wouldn’t dare to put money on them.
What would hurt the Super Kings is, this was a game they had a very good chance of winning. In their heydays, they were one of the most ruthless sides, capable of strangling the opposition in the slightest of opening they received. After dismissing Prithvi Shaw and Ajinkya Rahane inside five overs, Delhi had a huge task in hand as they looked to chase down 179. Remove the in-form Shikhar Dhawan, CSK would have had the match in their kitty.
Instead, Chennai chose to be generous on the field. Deepak Chahar, who had accounted for the first two wickets, dropped a skier when Dhawan was on 25 off Ravindra Jadeja’s bowling. From there on, it was just one-man show as the left-hander toyed with the Super Kings bowling for his maiden IPL century and more importantly, their seventh victory which helped them go top in the standings. One more victory will all but ensure them of a play-off berth.
On a flat Sharjah deck, Dhawan was a different player after receiving the lifeline. Dhawan, when he is at his free-flowing best, can be unstoppable and Chennai experienced it first hand. Charging down to pacers and driving, sweeping spinners at will and picking spots to find boundaries, it was an innings that proved to be the difference between the two sides.
It wasn’t a case of Chennai being completely outplayed. In fact, they were in the match till the 20th over began with Delhi needing 17 runs. But an injury to Dwayne Bravo meant, MS Dhoni had to use Jadeja, which was always going to a gamble against two left-handers. Axar Patel smashed three sixes in four balls to seal the deal. Earlier, Chennai batsmen once again put up an all-round effort to post a challenging total. Experienced Faf du Plessis top-scored with 58. Shane Watson, Ambati Rayudu and Jadeja made vital contributions to lift them to 179/4.