MS Dhoni does not like to finish the game of early does he? It's just too boring for the calmest guy you can find on a cricket field. With CSK cruising, courtesy another blitz from Dwayne Smith, Dhoni thought "alright, we'll send in R Ashwin at No.5 just to spice things up a little bit," and what followed was a match that went right down to the wire, yet without really looking out of CSK's reach, only because Captain Cool, with ice running through his veins, was just that finisher extraordinaire again.
The end result was a five-wicket victory for CSK, who chased down the target of 149, after the Royals managed 148 for eight, with a couple of balls to spare and Dhoni remaining unbeaten on 26 (16b, 1x4, 1x6).
The victory in Ranchi means CSK now have sole ownership of the top of the table, with 16 points, two more than Kings XI Punjab, who have played a game less. The Royals remain third on 12 points, unable to pick up that victory which would have meant a three-way tie at the top.
The chase began with Dwayne Smith his customary dominant self in the Powerplay overs, tonking those sixes over the ropes for fun, with the early wickets of Brendon McCullum and Suresh Raina, both caught out while playing the sweep off Ankit Sharma (4-0-20-2), not slowing the West Indian down.
Smith's innings of 57 was vital in CSK's win over the Mumbai Indians on Saturday, and the opener went about doing his job again with consummate ease, finding the boundaries at will as CSK cruised to the target in the first half of the innings.
If the Royals were to stand a chance of picking up a win and equalling CSK's points tally, they needed to pick up Smith, and Kevon Cooper, in for Kane Richardson, provided the vital breakthrough, inducing a top-edge from the seemingly unstoppable Smith (44, 35b, 5x4, 2x6) with wicketkeeper Dishant Yagnik completing a simple catch.
However, CSK were still very much the favourites, needing just 73 from the final ten overs, but Dhoni, wanting to make the game a little more interesting for his home crowd, decided to throw a bit of a curve ball by sending R Ashwin ahead of himself.
Ashwin (14, 16b, 1x4) did not manage to swing the game either team's way, putting on 29 at a run-a-ball with Faf Du Plessis, before falling in the penultimate ball of the 15th over, bowled by Rajat Bhatia, leaving the game's best finisher – Dhoni, given a rip-roaring ovation – and Du Plessis to get the final 43 runs from the last five overs.
Dhoni took a couple of overs to get settled, while Du Plessis struggled to get the boundaries going on the slow pitch, making the equation in the final three overs extremely interesting at 32 from 18, with that pressure on CSK ramped up just that notch higher with the wicket of Du Plessis (38, 39b, 2x4), castled by a yorker from Faulkner.
Seven runs from the Faulkner over meant it was all up to Dhoni, 10 from 10 at that stage, and Ravindra Jadeja to take CSK over the line, with 25 solid runs needed in the final 12 deliveries. Jadeja took charge with a big six off Cooper (4-0-25-1) in ball 111, with 13 runs from the penultimate over leaving CSK needing 12 from the final six balls from Faulkner.
There was never any doubt really, as the big man came to the fore in his own inimitable style. Dhoni was beyond cool in the final over, bludgeoning a six early, before, easy as you like, taking a quick double and a triple to take CSK to the top of the tree.
Earlier, the Rajasthan Royals set themselves up for a big finish with a solid opening, but anyone who expected Steven Smith and Faulkner to repeat their ridiculous hitting against RCB would have been left disappointed.
The Royals decided to give Sanju Samson a rest, with Ankit Sharma opening the batting and Yagnik, who played a few impressive innings last season, keeping wickets. The decision to send Ankit to open along with Shane Watson, who should really always be batting at the top, seemed to work as the Royals jumped to 50 in the first seven overs.
Ankit (30, 27b, 4x4, 1x6) was the first to go, holing out to Dwayne Smith at long-on off Ashwin, who got his revenge after being pasted for a six and two fours in his previous over. Sharma's wicket only allowed Watson to take charge, though, with the Royals captain taking a liking to debutant Vijay Shankar, who went for 19 runs in his first over.
Ajinkya Rahane, coming in at No.3, could not make much of an impact, run out after a seven-ball four in the 11th over, while Watson (51, 36b, 3x4, 4x6) fell soon after, castled by new Purple Cap owner Mohit Sharma (4-0-31-3).
Watson's wicket put RR on 99 for three in the 13th over, with plenty of firepower remaining in the batting lineup. However, the CSK bowlers did wonderfully well to stop the Royals batsmen from going slam-bang, restricting them to just 46 runs in the final seven overs, as the likes of Smith, Faulkner, Karun Nair and Stuart Binny could not quite go six-crazy.
That dearth of runs in the final overs proved to be the deciding factor, as CSK, thanks to Dhoni, added a couple more points in IPL 2014.