Watson finds form to put CSK back on top

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Watson hit 9 fours and 6 sixes in his 96 © AFP

Chennai Super Kings’ habit of taking things to the very end was on show again as they defeated Sunrisers Hyderabad in a final-over contest by six wickets at Chennai, thus ending their two-game losing streak and taking a big step towards qualifying for the next stage.

The win was set up by Shane Watson, who announced his return to form with a blistering 96 off 53 balls, overshadowing Manish Pandey’s own return to form with a fine 83 off 49, batting at number 3 for SRH.

How did Watson suddenly find form?

Remember how Watson suddenly hit top gear after struggling to get a move on in last year’s IPL final? There were shades of the same today. The right-hander, in woeful form this IPL, repaid the faith the CSK thinktank showed in him by smashing himself back into form.

He had scratched his way to 10 off 13 balls before he decided enough was enough. Khaleel Ahmed was smashed for a six and a four in the fifth over of the game. And from there on, Watson looked a completely different batsman. He pumped Shakib Al Hasan for another six, before taking two boundaries off the dangerous Rashid Khan. He did enjoy a bout of luck, when Bairstow put down a tough chance off a thick edge, but Watson looked unperturbed.

He went hard at Sandeep Sharma in his third over, slamming the right-armer for two fours and a six to reach his fifty off just 34 balls. Rashid Khan continued to be punished by Watson, going for another four and six, before hitting two back-to-back fours off Bhuvneshwar Kumar in the 15th over. That left CSK needing 41 runs in the final five overs. Exactly what SRH had scored in their death overs.

Watson was eventually dismissed for 96, superbly caught by Bairstow after edging a hook, but CSK by then were left with just a formality.

Okay… how did Manish Pandey?

He might have got only 54 runs in his past five innings, with a highest of 19, but Manish Pandey finally found his groove in this IPL. Perhaps a lot of this was to do with where the right-hander batted this time around. He walked in after the fall of Jonny Bairstow’s wicket in the second over of the game and immediately looked a different player. He jumped out of his crease and smashed Harbhajan Singh for a four first ball and he was underway.

Chennai Super Kings’ plan this year has been pretty clear, especially at home – tie the teams down with spin. They had three top spinners in Ravindra Jadeja, Harbhajan and Imran Tahir, but very few expected Pandey to take them on and come out trumps.

He followed his four off Harbhajan with another six and two fours in his two overs, helping SRH end the powerplay on a confident 54/1.

He kept his attack after too. Tahir was welcomed with a six as Pandey raced to 41 off just 22 balls, before bringing his fifty up with a four off Dwayne Bravo. Warner, brought up his fifty in the next over, but it became evident that the sultry conditions were taking a toll on the batsmen.

SRH needed to back up the strong start with an equally strong finish.

Did they get it?

Seeing as they lost only three wickets in their 20 overs, SRH would have been disappointed that they got only 175. That was largely due to their lacklustre death overs performance. At the end of 15 overs, SRH were 134/2 and looking at a total close to 200.

But with Pandey losing his power, and Vijay Shankar not timing the ball as well as he would’ve liked, SRH progressed at low rate. Only 41 came off the last five overs, with Bravo and Deepak Chahar bowling well at the end to restrict the visitors.

Did that cost them?

Big time.

There was little to separate the teams at the 15 overs mark. SRH were 134/2, with a well set Manish Pandey and a fresh Vijay Shankar at the crease. CSK were 135/2, with a well set Watson and a fresh Rayudu at the crease.

But while Watson brought out the big hits regularly, SRH struggled. The visitors had only one double digit over during their innings, hitting Imran Tahir for 13. But CSK, smashed 25 in the 16th and 17th overs to effectively end SRH’s chances. It allowed them go reach home in the final over, despite a late blip caused by Watson’s dismissal.

What happened to Rashid?

Watson absolutely tore him apart. The Afghanistan spinner is SRH’s biggest threat without doubt, but he had an off-day as Watson took him on. It was perhaps a result of a brief wrangle during Rashid’s first over, when the duo brushed shoulders as they passed each other.

Both players upped their game immediately after. Rashid left Suresh Raina in complete disarray by having him stumped for for 38 off 24. Just before the stumping, he had Raina beaten all ends up twice, and capped it off with a superb delivery that resulted in Raina losing his balance on the drive.

But when Rashid faced up against Watson, he came undone. It was as if Watson played Rashid as if he was an off spinner, regularly targetting the leg side field for anything that was in his zone. Watson his 30 runs off Rashid alone, facing just 12 deliveries.

Another bowler who had a disappointing outing was Sandeep Sharma, who was taken to the cleaners by Watson and Raina, going for 54 runs in his four overs and failing to defend 9 off the final over.

Brief Scores: Sunrisers Hyderabad 175/3 (Manish Pandey 83*, David Warner 57) lost to Chennai Super Kings 176/4 in 19.5 ov (Shane Watson 96) by 6 wickets

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