Chennai Super Kings, bat well or not, always seem to find a way to win games, and they needed a seriously good bowling effort and some extremely daft batting from the Delhi Daredevils to open their IPL 2015 campaign with a W in the most dramatic of fashions.
Put into bat by Daredevils skipper JP Duminy, CSK could only managed 150 in their 20 overs, as Nathan Coulter Nile (4-0-30-3) and the spinners put the skids on. But, the home team's bowlers, led by veteran Ashish Nehra (4-0-25-3), kept their cool with the ball as the hot-headed Daredevils batsmen just kept gifting their wickets away, with a fighting 73 not out (55b, 8x4, 1x6) from Albie Morkel proving to be in vain. Delhi eventually finished just short on 149 for nine in 20 overs, as Morkel could only hit a four instead of a six needed to win the game off the final ball to give CSK a one-run victory.
Delhi Daredevils opened their chase with the two Karnataka batsmen – Mayank Agarwal and CM Gautam – and the duo looked to give their team the kind of opening which would ease the pressure considerably on their middle order.
However, after a few blazing boundaries from the blade of Agarwal, he lost his opening partner Gautam (4, 5b) to the wily Nehra, who would then go on to dismiss the former as well in the same over. Gautam fell mistiming a lofted drive to Dwayne Bravo at mid-on, while Agarwal (15, 12b, 2x4, 1x6) edged one to Dhoni.
With just 151 to chase, Delhi Daredevils were still the favourites, and the decision to send Albie Morkel at No.3 seemed to be working with the left-hander looking quite comfortable at the crease. However, after the two openers threw their wickets away, Delhi continued to bat like they were chasing a target over 200 rather than 150, with Shreyas Iyer, the uncapped player who went for big bucks in the auction, showing his inexperience by playing a poor shot and handing Nehra a simple wicket.
Morkel and Kedar Jadhav finally brought some sense into the chase with a measured run-a-ball partnership of 48, but just when DD needed the two to take the game into the final five overs at least, Jadhav (20, 20b, 2x4) was sent packing by Mohit Sharma.
Yuvraj Singh (9, 6b, 1x4), who was bought by the Daredevils for a massive Rs 16 crore, finally walked in at No.6, and after creaming a flick for a four, a good short ball from Dwayne Bravo had the left-hander walking back to the pavilion as well.'
That big wicket put Delhi Daredevils on 99/5, needing another 52 from 34 balls, quite makeable with Morkel still at the crease and skipper Duminy joining him in the middle.
The scenario was tailor-made for Duminy (5, 5b), who is an excellent finisher, but Delhi Daredevils just don't seem to catch a break in IPL cricket of late do they? An attempted dab down to third man only resulted in that dreaded inside-edge and deflection onto the stumps, and now CSK were the big favourites, with DD needing 46 from the last 26 balls.
As long as Morkel was there, there was hope for the away team, and with Nathan Coulter-Nile also more than handy with the bat all was not lost. Morkel and Coulter-Nile brought the target down to 32 from the final three overs, with the former also getting to his half-century in the process.
R Ashwin, given the ball in the 18th over, dented Delhi's chances just that little bit more by castling Coulter-Nile, who hit nothing but air going for a big onside heave, leaving the batting team needing 27 from the final two overs.
A tiring Morkel, against his former team, had to hit a few sixes if the Daredevils were to come away with their first win in IPL 2015, and he did manage one off Bravo in the final over to take the match to the final couple of balls. With eight from two balls needed, Morkel thrashed one to the offside for a couple, only a couple thanks to some outstanding fielding from Suresh Raina, leaving the South African to hit a six to win DD the game.
Bravo bowled a length ball outside off stump and Morkel got it well onto his bat, but the ball landed just short of the ropes before going over the boundary to hand CSK the narrowest of wins.
CSK's innings was a case of what might have been really with plenty of batsmen getting starts, but unable to get past that half-century mark to help push that score into a "yeah that is ridiculously difficult to chase down" level.
Much was expected from the CSK openers Dwayne Smith and Brendon McCullum, two batsmen who can smash any IPL attack into bits. And give Albie Morkel a pounding did Smith in the first over of the match, with four boundaries coming, three of them via the blade of the batsman and one courtesy his thigh pad.
With that blazing start, there might have been a case for McCullum to just play out, you know, a couple of balls at least, but then McCullum does not deal in blocking the balls anymore does he. The first ball from Coulter-Nile saw him give a whack across the line and a thick outside edge flew over Yuvraj Singh in the slips and for four.
Next ball, McCullum danced down the track, Coulter-Nile dug it in short and induced a false stroke with Yuvraj running back and taking a nice catch.
At 20/1 and with plenty of hard-hitting and quality batsmen to come, CSK were still in a good spot, but they just kept losing wickets at regular intervals. Suresh Raina was bowled by Coulter-Nile in the final ball of the fourth over while trying to play a big stroke, while Smith (34, 31b, 6x4) fell in the first ball of the ninth, to the excellent Imran Tahir.
Tahir (4-0-27-1) and Amit Mishra (4-0-21-1) choked the momentum out of the innings completely with some outstanding T20 leg-spin bowling, and even if Faf Du Plessis (32, 24b, 3x4) tried to steady the ship, his dismissal in the 13th over quelled any sort of surge again.
Ravindra Jadeja (17, 18b, 1x4, 1x6), apart from a couple of lusty blows could do little, while Dwayne Bravo was trapped in front by Dominic Joseph after barely troubling the scorers.
The final three-over charge was up to Dhoni after Bravo's dismissal, but the CSK skipper just cannot seem to shake off that six-hitting struggle.
There were plenty of hits that did not quite go according to plan, but Dhoni (30, 27b, 1x4, 2x6) did manage a couple of sixes in the final over, one a pull-away/back-away cut over point and the second a much more Dhoni-like thwack over long-on. A ball later Coulter-Nile would pick up Dhoni, though, but those two sixes ensured CSK would finish their innings at 150, which proved to be one run too many for the Daredevils.