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The Highveld Lions of Johannesburg ensured that their trip to Newlands was a very productive one as they picked up their second straight win at the expense of one of the IPL heavyweights, this time beating the Chennai Super Kings by 6 wickets in a thrilling game which went down to the final over. Chennai batted well, posting what on most days would have been a winning total of 158-6. Skipper MS Dhoni top scored for Chennai, making 34, but the strength of their batting effort revolved around plenty of useful contributions up and down the order. Aaron Phangiso was once again the star of the show with the ball, taking 2-17 from his 4 overs. The Lions were struggling at 24-2 after 6 overs, leaving them needing just under 10 an over from 14 overs to steal an unlikely victory, but the Chennai bowling support cast flattered to deceive, while Gulam Bodi (64) and Jean Symes (39*) played some excellent knocks to seal what in the end appeared to be a rather comfortable win with 3 balls to spare.
The Highveld Lions won the toss in beautiful Cape Town and made an interesting decision to put the Chennai Super Kings in. While the Lions were unchanged, the Super Kings altered their approach significantly by bringing in allrounder Albie Morkel for Yo Mahesh in an attempt to strengthen their bowling. As a result a foreign player needed to be sacrificed and veteran Mike Hussey made way for Wriddhiman Saha.
The Chennai innings wasn't picture perfect, but it got the job done, reaching a competitive 158-6 in 20 overs. None of the batsmen went on and made a telling contribution, yet 6 of the top 7 made their way to 20 with all but one doing it at a strike rate better than 125. That meant that there were enough runs on the board to give the team a fighting chance.
Faf du Plessis (25) and Murali Vijay (22) got the Super Kings off to a steady start, posting 44 inside the mandatory powerplay before Aaron Phangiso came on once again and strangled the flow of runs. Phangiso produced yet another memorable spell, taking 2-17, perhaps earning himself a possible big money IPL contract in next year's auction.
Interestingly, all of the Chennai batsmen who got in struck a six as well, and there were 8 maximums well distributed amongst the Super Kings top order. Skipper MS Dhoni came in at no.4 and top scored for his side, making 34, while Subramaniam Badrinath's contribution at the end was crucial, the veteran right-hander making an unbeaten 27 from 14 balls.
Dirk Nannes in particular was taken to the cleaners late on by Chennai with the left-arm seamer conceding 19 runs from the penultimate over.
Chennai also got a dream start with the ball as Doug Bollinger struck twice in as many overs to reduce the Lions to 8-2. Bollinger, pitching the ball further up in this game, got some generous swing and trapped Lions skipper Alviro Petersen leg before first ball. In his next over, the veteran Aussie pacer accounted for young Quinton de Kock for 5 to put the Lions on the backfoot.
Runs came at a trickle as a result of the early setbacks as the Lions stuttered to 24-2 at the end of the powerplay. The spreading of the field allowed the run rate to pick up marginally, and the Lions brought up their 50 from 55 balls, still very much behind the asking rate, and looking decidedly second best.
However, the Chennai spinners struggled under lights and Gulam Bodi, who had been biding his time thus far, exploded, accelerating at the rate of knots. The next 50 runs came off just 25 balls, and at 100-2 in 13.1 overs, the game was once again very much in the balance.
Albie Morkel, who had conceded 20 from his first 2 overs, came back to remove the dangerous Bodi for 64, the left-handed opener playing an exceptional knock under the circumstances, his innings including 5 fours and 4 sixes.
Chennai pulled things back a bit once again after the wickets, and the Lions needed 45 to win from the last 4 overs. The Lions lost veteran batsman Neil McKenzie for 33 on the second ball of the 17th over with Suresh Raina taking an excellent running catch in the deep, but the Lions roared back into contention late in the over with Chris Morris striking the last ball for 6 as 15 runs came off the over.
10 and 11 runs off the next two overs bowled by Doug Bollinger and Ben Hilfenhaus left Albie Morkel with just 9 to defend in the final over. And Jean Symes wrapped up the match in style striking consecutive boundaries early in the final over to coast to victory with 6 wickets in hand.
The result was an excellent testament to the depth of the Lions middle order, and the home favourites are quickly moving from a side to watch to one of becoming one of the tournament favourites. Chennai meanwhile have now suffered consecutive defeats, and the prospect of their making the semi-finals hangs by the thinnest of threads.
The Lions will look to seal a semi-final berth when they take on another form side in the Sydney Sixers right here in Cape Town on Thursday. The Super Kings have a few extra days to review their performance and will take on the Mumbai Indians on Saturday in what could well be a must win game for both sides.
Chennai Super Kings: Murali Vijay, Faf du Plessis, Suresh Raina, S Badrinath, MS Dhoni (c & wk), Albie Morkel, Wriddhiman Saha, Ravindra Jadeja, R Ashwin, Ben Hilfenhaus, Doug Bollinger
Lions: Gulam Bodi, Alviro Petersen (c), Quinton de Kock, Neil McKenzie, Jean Symes, Thami Tsolekile (wk), Zander de Bruyn, Chris Morris, Sohail Tanvir, Aaron Phangiso, Dirk Nannes
Chennai Super Kings 158-6 (20 overs, 7.9rpo)
MS Dhoni 34 (26) A Phangiso 2-17
S Badrinath 27* (14) Z de Bruyn 1-18
Lions 159-4 (19.3 overs, 8.15rpo)
G Bodi 64 (46) D Bollinger 2-19
J Symes 39* (23) A Morkel 1-35
Lions win by 6 wickets with 3 balls to spare
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