Ambati Rayudu showed the Indian team what they missed in last year’s World Cup as his 71 of 48 deliveries helped Chennai recorded a five-wicket win as IPL 13 got underway at Sheikh Zayed Stadium in Abu Dhabi.
This win also ended Chennai’s six-game losing streak against Mumbai.
The fireworks were missing on Abu Dhabi skylines, MS Dhoni and Rohit Sharma maintained social distancing at the toss, both teams lined up to thank the frontline heroes as Chennai inserted Mumbai to bat first on a pitch they had the first glimpse only two hours before the start of play.
Dhoni wanted Deepak Chahar, Sam Curran, and Lungi Ngidi to make use of the pitch, which he thought would be wet enough.
Instead, it was Piyush Chawla, who gave the first break, as Chennai found the momentum they badly sought.
Mumbai batsmen began well, but none converted the start. Hardik Pandya started with a bang but fell victim to one of two splendid two catches that Faf du Plessis took on the long-off boundary.
As big names failed, it was Saurabh Tiwary, a surprise inclusion in the XI, who top-scored with 44 as Mumbai 162/9 in 20 overs with Ngidi picking up three wickets.
“Batsmen didn’t carry on once they got in as Du Plessis and Rayudu did. That’s something we failed to do. But credit to CSK bowlers, they kept us guessing all the time. Something for us to learn. Still early days, but credit to CSK. We all want to start really well, it’s crucial in this tournament to get that balance right,” Mumbai captain Rohit Sharma said at the end.
Mumbai started well in the first six overs, but couldn’t put up a massive total.
And when Trent Boult and James Pattinson removed Shane Watson and Murali Vijay, respectively, within the second over, it surely felt enough.
But then Chennai has the habit of finding heroes. Rayudu, walking in at No 4, changed the momentum straight away as he found boundaries at will.
With Du Plessis, who made an unbeaten 55, playing perfect foil at the other end, Chennai charged ahead before the dismissal of Rayudu and Ravindra Jadeja gave them a brief scare. But Du Plessis and Curran (who hit 18 off 6 balls) ensured they are only a mirage.
It was Rayudu’s day though. Overlooked for the World Cup last year, Rayudu hastily announced retirement before Chennai management convinced him to continue.
That there was more cricket left in him was never in doubt and Rayudu showed what he can still offer. On slow wickets, he can be counted to deliver as he uses his feet well.
After losing two wickets, Rayudu and Du Plessis consolidated the chase, finding the odd boundaries before the former cut lose. Even though Rayudu couldn’t finish off the match, his form would be the biggest takeaway for Dhoni & Co.