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The 16th game of the Indian Premier League, pitting Pune against Chennai went all the way down to the final over. The Pune Warriors embodied their captain's steel to outclass Chennai by 7 wickets and jump to the top of the League table. The chief architects of the stirring win were the trans-Tasman pair of Jesse Ryder and Steve Smith, who starred in a decisive, unbeaten 66 run stand. Jesse Ryder smashed a career best 73* while Steve 'Ice cool' Smith (44*) held his nerve amidst immense pressure to enable Pune fashion their second consecutive home victory. Earlier in the evening, the Pune bowlers essayed a strong fightback to peg Chennai back to 155-5. Ravindra Jadeja top scored for Chennai with a quick fire 44. Eventually, Chennai were left to rue their inability to collate big overs at the death.
IPL giants, Chennai Super Kings, fresh off their frenetic finish against Bangalore collided with the Pune Warriors at the beautiful Subrata Roy Sahara stadium, ingeniously located a few clicks away from the Mumbai-Pune expressway. The newly constructed arena was buried in a sea of blue as fans turned up in large numbers to support their Warriors. The toss of the coin landed in CSK's favor and Mahendra Singh Dhoni decided to bat first on what seemed to be rather sluggish pitch. Surprisingly the Super Kings rang in a couple of changes with Sri Lankan Nuwan Kulasekara and Tamil Nadu speedster Vijaykumar Yo Mahesh making the cut at the expense of Doug Bollinger and Shadab Jakati. The Pune Warriors, as expected, roped in Murali Kartik for Manish Pandey.
Faf du Plessis, who has eased into Mike Hussey's role so very well, welcomed Ashok Dinda with a convincing pull shot that soared over the fence. The rampaging Du Plessis also charged at Nehra, smacking 18 runs off the deposed Indian pacer's first over. In the interim Murali Kartik slipped in two quiet overs to exert pressure on the tentative and badly out of form Murali Vijay. The boundaries though kept flowing from the willow of Du Plessis. During the process, the 27 year old snatched away the orange cap from Ajinkya Rahane. Chennai had made 43-0 at the conclusion of the powerplay.
In the following over, Angelo Mathews struck on the first ball, sending Murali Vijay(8) packing. Suresh Raina, the new man settled down nicely, his timing leaving nothing to be wanted.
A rare lapse in concentration, immediately after the strategic time out saw du Plessis(43) succumb to the wizardry of Rahul Sharma, widely regarded as the modern incarnation of Anil Kumble. CSK's innings fell into the capable hands of MS Dhoni. No prizes for guessing, the duo of Dhoni and Raina were lightning quick between the wickets apart from finding the odd boundary. Just when the southpaw was about to cut loose, the tall leggie got rid of him for 20, Steve Smith stationed at long on taking a sharp catch. Dhoni, in the company of Ravi Jadeja piloted CSK to 106-3 in 14 overs.
Jadeja, batted with freedom and flair and took over the reins from Dhoni, who seemed content to deal in ones and twos. Jadeja, much like du Plessis found the ropes with regularity. The million dollar man even cleared them twice. However, Captain Cool's dismissal in the penultimate over for 26 marked the end of the 61 run stand. Jadeja departed in the final over for a 26-ball innings of 44, caught once again by Smith, this time off Nehra. Dwayne Bravo capped off the innings on a high by virtue of a boundary. Chennai, definitely would have liked a few more skyscrapers. Nevertheless 155-5 appeared to be a challenging total.
After a string of failures at the opening slot, Sourav shunted himself down the order, entrusting Robin Uthappa with the responsibility alongside Jesse Ryder. Uthappa responded brilliantly with a typical front foot thwack, meeting Albie Morkel head on. Jesse Ryder at the other end tore into Kulasekara, pocketing 3 consecutive fours. Much to the chagrin of the vociferous fans, Kulasekara redeemed himself by dislodging the bails swiftly to catch Uthappa (10) short of his crease. Ganguly came in at one drop, and got off the mark with a majestic cover drive, reiterating Rahul Dravid's celebrated saying ' First there is god on the offside, then there is Ganguly'. The lefties stayed put as Pune raced to 56-1 in 6 overs. CSK were sorely missing their strike bowler, Doug the rug.
Moments later, an indecision culminated in the exit of Ganguly (16), the second run-out of the Pune innings. The unwise move to pilfer a run off a misfield cost Pune dearly. The tidy CSK spinners cashed in to stem the run flow. Four overs ticked away without a boundary. While Jesse Ryder cantered to his half-century, Samuels' painstaking 8 folded up when Yo Mahesh rearranged his furniture in the 13th over. Steve Smith wasted no time and loosened the shackles by clouting Raina for a biggie. With 50 required from 5 overs, the onus was on the trans-transman pair to lash out at the Super Kings' bowlers.
The lusty blows did not materialize as the men in yellow tightened the screws. Strangely, there was still no sign of Ravindra Jadeja, the bowler.
Thankfully for the hosts, the Aussie opened the floodgates. Pune manufactured 12 runs off the 18th over to stay in the hunt, Bravo facing the damage. Steve Smith, Pune's pocket dynamo added 2 more fours in the next over to ensure that Pune needed not more than 10 off the last over. Even though, Dhoni had other options, he tossed the ball over to young Yo Mahesh. Smith was too good for Mahesh and guided the Warriors to a fantastic 7 wicket triumph with 4 balls to spare.
Filled with utility players who hit the ground running, Pune Warriors are strong contenders for the IPL throne. The Warriors will next face Bangalore at the M.Chinnaswamy stadium on Tuesday. The Super Kings will have a refreshing 4 day break before they lock horns with the Warriors in the return leg at Chepauk on Thursday.
PWI: S Ganguly(c), J Ryder, M Samuels, R Uthappa(wk), A Mathews, S Smith, M Manhas, M Kartik, R Sharma, A Dinda, A Nehra
CSK: F du Plessis, M Vijay, S Raina, S Badrinath, MS Dhoni(c/wk), D Bravo, A Morkel, R Jadeja, N Kulasekara, R Ashwin, Y Mahesh
CSK: 155-5 overs(20 overs, 7.75 rpo)
R Jadeja 44(26) R Sharma 2-16
F du Plessis 43(33) A Mathews 1-18
PW: 156-3 (19.2 rpo, 8.06 rpo)
J Ryder 73*(56) Y Mahesh 1-22
S Smith 44*(22)
Pune won by 7 wickets
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