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A low-scoring thriller at the Sawai Mansingh Stadium was the perfect Thursday night fare as the Chennai Super Kings came, saw and conquered Fortress Jaipur to land a massive blow to Rajasthan's play-off chances. Rain and damp conditions made the toss absolutely crucial, and the game appeared to be half won when Chennai Skipper MS Dhoni called right and put the Royals in. Rajasthan battled their way to 126/6 with Brad Hodge (33) and Stuart Binny (27) the only two real contributors after man of the match Ben Hilfenhaus had rocked the Rajasthan top order early by removing bigwigs Rahul Dravid and Shane Watson. Chennai proceeded to make a mess of their chase, sliding to 84/6 in 16.2 overs to leave them needing an unlikely 43 to win from 22 balls. However, some belligerent hitting from Albie Morkel and Anirudha Srikkanth saw the visitors cruise home with exactly half of those deliveries to spare. The win propels Chennai back into the top 4, and while the Royals will take heart from the fact that they did not play poorly, it is the wins and not how they come which really count at this stage of the season.
There were changes to the starting eleven for both sides with illness relegating the Chennai duo of Faf du Plessis and Subramaniam Badrinath to the bench and giving an opportunity to Michael Hussey and Anirudha Srikkanth in their stead. Shadab Jakati, who has had an indifferent tournament this season also made way for Yo Mahesh. Rajasthan also made a couple of changes with a seamer in Pankaj Singh coming in for Ankeet Chavan, while Brad Hodge returned from injury to take the place of Owais Shah.
A couple of showers during the early stages of the contest freshened up the pitch in Jaipur and the Rajasthan Royals would have probably considered themselves a little fortunate to haved been just one down at the end of 5 overs as they scratched their way to 25. That luck ran out in the 6th over as the big fish Shane Watson was well caught by Ashwin at third man with Ben Hilfenhaus getting rid of his fellow Aussie. Rahane though still had lady luck smiling down upon him as his edge evaded Suresh Raina in the long slip. Meanwhile Ben Hilfenhaus bowled out his four overs right at the start and finished with exceptional figures of 4-1-8-2.
Yo Mahesh finally got his man though as Rahane's attempt to take on the bowler led to his downfall for 17. Stuart Binny had been pushed up the order and he played a nice little cameo, contributing 27 from just 18 balls before also falling to Mahesh, an inspired selection from the Chennai think tank.
Johan Botha and Brad Hodge had the job of taking Rajasthan to a competitive score, and shared a 32 run stand for the 5th wicket before Ravindra Jadeja removed the former for 12. Hodge too fell in the next over for a crucial 33 leaving a late flourish from Rajasthan in serious doubt. Ashok Menaria and Dishant Yagnik picked up 3 late boundaries to push the score up to 126/6, surely not enough to seriously challenge the Super Kings.
Chennai's response got off to a poor start with Shane Watson removing Murali Vijay for naught in the very first over. Surprisingly though Shaun Tait was not given the new ball despite Rajasthan's desperate need for wickets and Suresh Raina capitalized, striking four boundaries to help Chennai to 30/1 in 5 overs. Rajasthan gave their drenched fans some cause for optimism by removing Raina on the last ball of the powerplay for 23, but with their long batting order filled with so many class players, it was still difficult to see them losing this one.
Michael Hussey and Dwayne Bravo turned accumulators out in the middle, taking the score along to 49/2 as the side's took their first time out after 9 overs. The next three overs brought just another 11 runs with the Royals also getting rid of Bravo for 10 to keep themselves just about in the contest.
In the very next over the game came alive when Shaun Tait ran out Michael Hussey for 19 to rock the Chennai boat. The over conceded just a solitary run and at 61/4 in 13 overs, Chennai were suddenly under the cosh needing 66 to win from 42 balls. It was upto skipper MS Dhoni and Ravindra Jadeja to take Chennai home.
The game continued to be tense though with Rajasthan picking up the massive wickets of Dhoni (10) and Jadeja (16) within the space of three deliveries to push Chennai into a corner. Seventeen runs though from the 17th over brought the equation down to 30 from 3 overs with Albie Morkel swinging wildly from the hip.
If Morkel was good, then Anirudha Srikkanth was even better as the duo took on the ever reliable Shane Watson, hitting him for a six each to take 18 runs from the 18th over to bring the equation down to under a run a ball. The match ended in rather anti-climatic fashion as the son of the legendary Krishnamachari Srikkanth carved his own name into Chennai folklore by hitting Shaun Tait for a fantastic 6 before benefitting from being bowled on a no-ball. The free-hit that followed went for 5 wides as an irate Tait lost his radar allowing Chennai to cruise home with 11 balls to spare. Both men finished with 18 runs from 6 balls, taking their team to an incredible win.
Back in the top four, Chennai head home where they entertain the table topping Delhi Daredevils in yet another must win game for them. The Royals, who were in contention for large periods of this match will be gutted with the defeat and will look to bounce back quickly when the Pune Warriors come calling on Sunday.
Rajasthan Royals: Dravid (c), Rahane, Watson, Menaria, Brad Hodge, Botha, Binny, Yagnik (wk), Tait, Pankaj Singh, Trivedi
Chennai Super Kings: Vijay, Hussey, Raina, Bravo, Dhoni (c & wk), Morkel, Jadeja, Srikkanth, Ashwin, Yo Mahesh, Hilfenhaus.
Rajasthan Royals 126/6 (20 overs, 6.3rpo)
B Hodge 33 (28) B Hilfenhaus 2-8
S Binny 27 (18) Y Mahesh 2-21
Chennai Super Kings 127/6 (18.1 overs, 6.99rpo)
S Raina 23 (17) S Trivedi 2-14
M Hussey 19 (32) P Singh 2-34
Chennai win by 4 wickets with 11 balls to spare
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