Chennai, April 21 (IANS) Defending champions Chennai Super Kings chalked up their fourth win in seven matches as they beat Rajasthan Royals by seven wickets off the last ball in their Indian Premier League (IPL) encounter here Saturday.
Opener Francois du Plessis (73, 52b, 6x4, 2x6) yet again proved to be the Super Kings' mainstay as the hosts overhauled Royals' modest total of 146 for four that was built around a 92-run stand between Owais Shah (52, 43b, 4x4, 3x6) and Ashok Menaria (36, 34b, 2x4, 1x6).
In reply, the Super Kings just about clinched a win after Royals seamer Kevon Cooper took two wickets in one over before skipper Mahendra Singh Dhoni (15 off 12) and Dwayne Bravo (16 off 10) scripted a thrilling win as the hosts moved to eight points, the same as Royals.
The Super Kings' chase began on a strong note with du Plessis taking 12 runs off seamer Stuart Binny, playing his first IPL game this season, in the second over.
South African du Plessis was particularly severe on the bowlers as he set the tone for another big partnership following their century stand in the previous game with a six over extra-cover off left-arm spinner Menaria being outstanding.
The 50 came up with that shot, but in the next over, Badrinath, rather subdued, was stumped off left-arm spinner Brad Hogg, the best of Royals bowlers, while attempting an ambitious inside-out shot.
It was not long before du Plessis completed his third half-century in four games as the Super Kings cruised untroubled towards victory.
At the other end, Suresh Raina, woefully short of form, struggled, but with du Plessis looking solid at the other end, the southpaw was not under undue pressure to get a move on.
With the duo adding 61 runs at a good clip, the Super Kings seemed to have the game all sewn up, but Cooper removed both du Plessis and Raina in the 17th over to shift the momentum in favour of Royals.
But then, skipper Mahendra Singh Dhoni and Bravo, two of the best finishers in this format, ensured no further shocks for the Super Kings as they took 13 off the next over bowled by Amit Singh, leaving the hosts to get 16 off the last two overs.
In the tense last over bowled by Binny, Dhoni ran a two off the last ball to clinch the issue for the Super Kings.
Earlier, the Royals enjoyed a decent start against some tight bowling. Nuwan Kulasekara, in particular, was quite outstanding while off-spinner Ravichandran Ashwin backed him with a very economical spell.
Rahul Dravid (26) and this season's leading scorer Ajinkya Rahane (15) put on 36 runs for the first wicket with 15 of those coming in the third over bowled by Dwayne Bravo, before the pair was separated.
Ashwin dismissed Rahane in his very first over with the batsman getting impatient and holing our tamely to Kulasekara and soon after, Dravid departed attempting a big heave in Jakati's first over and getting caught in the deep by Doug Bollinger.
Thereafter, Shah and young Menaria batted with understandable circumspection before opening their shoulders to provide some momentum to the innings.
Seamer Bravo and Super Kings' expensive signing Ravindra Jadeja, the left-arm spinner, proved costly as Shah and Menaria showcased their big-hitting ability. So much so that the pair put on 92 runs for the third wicket as the Royals looked at a 150-plus total.
However, Kulasekara, returning for his second spell, sent down two tight overs to peg the Royals while at the other end, Bollinger got rid of Menaria in the 19th.
Shah was the last to be dismissed off the final over conceding just four runs to peg the Royals to 146, perhaps a good 20 runs short against a team that boasted of a strong battling line-up.
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