Faf du Plessis survived a leg before wicket decision, thanks to the Decision Review System, off the first ball of the 16th over from Rashid Khan. At that point of Qualifier 1 against Sunrisers Hyderabad, Chennai Super Kings needed 48 runs to win with just three wickets in hand. It was to be a crucial moment in the game as du Plessis, who was on 38 off 31 balls, would shift gears to secure a thrilling two-wicket win at the Wankhede Stadium in Mumbai on Tuesday (May 22).
Du Plessis, who remained unbeaten on 67 on 42 balls, walked in to the dressing room afterwards and asked everyone how they won it from the situation they were in. Speaking to Dwayne Bravo for iplt20.com later, he said that his experience of having been in similar situations helped him stay calm. He also credited Shardul Thakur, who made a timely unbeaten 15 off just five balls, for hitting three fours against Sidharth Kaul that reduced the equation to six needed off the final over bowled by Bhuvneshwar Kumar. Du Plessis sealed the deal with a straight six off Bhuvneshwar’s first ball.
“It was one of those games. This game reminded me of the game we played against Mumbai (Indians in Chennai’s first match of the season) where you played a similar knock,” du Plessis told Bravo. “I didn’t know how we got over the line, but it was just one of those games where if you hung in till the end, anything can happen. It is great that the tail-enders came in and made it a lot easier by hitting some good boundaries.
“With experience, you try to focus on…You have been in situation like that before where you don’t have to panic,” he added. “Just stay calm and hope for something special. It always happens later. You just have to hang in there. Tonight was one of those nights.”
Stephen Fleming, Chennai’s coach, pointed out that individuals standing up at different stages had been the theme for his team this season. “The game obviously has its ups and downs, twists and turns, but we have had a season where we have won from unwinnable positions. Today was one of those,” the former New Zealand skipper said. “It’s been individual players that have got us out of trouble. Different players all the time. MS (Dhoni) is the usual culprit, but a player today who hasn’t played that much came out on the biggest stage of the tournament. For Faf to do that is a testament of his skillset, but mindset as well. Sometimes, it is down to luck. He just picked the guys at the right time and played the innings for the team that means so much.”
Fleming felt that both teams did not bat to their full potential. He said Hyderabad’s total of 139 for 7 after they had been put in was at least “20-25 runs short”. Kane Williamson, Hyderabad’s captain, agreed, saying “it was probably a 160 wicket.”
The way Hyderabad fought back was symbolic of the character they have shown through the season, having built a reputation of successfully defending low totals. They had reduced Chennai to 92 for 7, and once again Rashid Khan stood out with figures of 4-0-11-2. Fleming said that while the pitch did offer turn, Rashid was a handful in any conditions. Williamson called his bowlers “outstanding” for bringing them back into the contest.
“We were a little bit short with the bat, but credit to the way we pulled it back,” Williamson said. “It did swing and if you take early wickets, I suppose you can be in the game majority of the time. We did that. Obviously it is very tough to swallow because we certainly back our death bowling to close games out for us from that point, but we have been on the right side of a number of those results throughout in this league and today wasn’t to be.”
The game turned on its head in the 18th over when Carlos Brathwaite, who had given Hyderabad a decent total with his unbeaten 43 off 29 balls from No. 7, was hit for 20 runs. That he was given that over ahead of Sandeep Sharma raised a few eyebrows, but Williamson defended his teammate.
“We certainly backed Carlos with his death bowling. That is why he is in the side, another death option. Unfortunately, that’s the game we play that when you are under pressure, sometimes life gets a little bit tough,” Williamson said. “Credit to the way Faf batted. He batted beautifully. A few balls here and there in the death. When it is a low-scoring game, a couple of edges. It’s such a fine line. It’s just a shame. Death bowling for us is our strength but today CSK showed their depth with the bat. Thakur coming in, he obviously can hit the ball as well and prove to be effective. Frustrating.
“To be fair, the way I look at it, that’s not where we want to correct ourselves. With the bat, we could have taken a few smarter options in order to get maybe another 15 or 20 on that surface,” he added. “A couple of things did not go our way, but that’s the nature of the sport. We are moving on from that.”
Hyderabad’s batting had an off day, with Shikhar Dhawan chopping Deepak Chahar on off the first ball of the match. After that, the bowlers bowled either short or back of the length to deny Hyderabad any easy scoring opportunities. Williamson and Shakib Al Hasan were caught behind off short balls down the legside. Fleming thought they had “the rub of the green”, which allowed them to make up for some average cricket between patches of brilliance. He had a special word for Lungi Ngidi, who once again impressed with figures of 1 for 20.
“(Ngidi) has provided a spearhead for MS, and it has improved our first six overs. We are getting wickets in the front. Deepak Chahar is also swinging the ball. So, the two of them have provided opportunities to take wickets. That has allowed our other bowlers to come a bit more into the game. He has been quite instrumental in reducing the scores we are chasing,” Fleming explained. “One stage we were chasing 200 almost every game. We have really worked hard to be reasonably consistent. We were okay today. Ngidi was great, (Ravindra) Jadeja was good, but it was an okay performance. We have been better. That’s what we will look over the next four days. But he has been a key part in keeping us in the tournament and we doing well.”