Mahendra Singh Dhoni hasn't lost an ounce of his leadership acumen even after a 437-day hiatus as his battle-hardened Chennai Super Kings (CSK) outfit beat Mumbai Indians (MI) in the 13th Indian Premier League (IPL) 2020 opener on Saturday.
Ambati Rayudu (71 off 48 balls) blazed his way and Faf du Plessis (55 not out off 44 balls) more than made up for Suresh Raina's absence at No. 3, helping CSK chase down a tricky 163-run target in 19.2 overs and with five wickets to spare.
It wasn't a jam-packed Wankhede rooting for the Mumbai Indians nor was it the passionate Chepauk stands with its Yellow Army in full fervour. It was a near-empty Sheikh Zayed Stadium in the Arabian desert where Bryan Adams' Summer of 69 or Rocky's theme music Eye of a Tiger blared from the sound systems along with artificial crowd cheers.
In this eerie set-up, Captain Cool's brain kept ticking as his new recruits -- leg-spinner Piyush Chawla (1/21 in 4 overs) and left-arm seamer Sam Curran (1/28 in 4 overs) -- made fantastic first impressions while the new ball pair of Lungi Ngidi (3/38 in 4 overs) and Deepak Chahar (2/32 in 4 overs) came back brilliantly at the death overs.
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The skipper also sent match-fit Sam Curran at No. 6 and his 18 off 6 balls ended any anti-climax that Rohit Sharma's men would have anticipated.
Giving less than 80 runs in the back-10 was the turning point and then the manner in which Rayudu and Du Plessis chased it after a scratchy start as MI maintained their record of not winning an IPL opening game since 2013.
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Trent Boult, with an in-dipper and James Pattinson, with a slightly dodgy decision going his way, removed Shane Watson and Murali Vijay respectively, making it 6 for 2 before Rayudu, in the company of du Plessis, launched a furious counter-attack.
One of the major aspects was how clueless Jasprit Bumrah (1/43 in 4 overs) looked during the day and it cost his team dearly.