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MS Dhoni’s bruising half-century cemented Chennai Super Kings' top standing in Group ‘B’ of the Champions Trophy T20 as they edged out Hyderabad Sunrisers by 12 runs on Thursday. Before a frenzied home crowd at the JSCA Stadium, Dhoni hit eight sixes in a 19-ball 63, including a chilling onslaught against medium pacer Thisara Perera, who was taken for 34 in one over.
Such was Dhoni’s impact that he put to shade another blistering knock that had preceded his. Suresh Raina’s 57-ball 84 was what placed Chennai in control in the first two-thirds of the innings after they were sent in to bat. The beneficiary of at least two dropped catches, Raina struck nine boundaries and a six, before the Dhoni special took Chennai to 202.
That proved too much for Sunrisers to chase down, despite the presence of an outright match-winner in Shikhar Dhawan. Hyderabad's captain, with the inconsistent Parthiv Patel for opening company, was ferocious in his response as 88 were gleaned off the first 10 overs. Parthiv received a ‘life’ when he was caught off a no-ball, but was run out almost immediately for 38 by Raina’s direct hit.
Raina struck again in the same over, bowling JP Duminy for a duck. Dhawan (48) then slammed the door shut on his own team by slashing an R. Ashwin wide delivery into Dhoni’s alert gloves. From 87 /0 to 106/4 with an asking rate north of 15 – there was only one way this was going to end, with or without a consolatory-but-brilliant half-century by Darren Sammy. Thanks to the West Indian’s 25-ball 50, Hyderabad finished on 190/7 to ensure that the loss will not translate into poor Net Run Rate.
It might have been the dew factor that compelled Dhawan to field first. And it was a decision that he wouldn’t have rued immediately. M. Vijay was out second ball to Dale Steyn for his third consecutive duck in competitive cricket. Michael Hussey (22) walked after edging Duminy to wicketkeeper Patel. S. Badrinath (13) spent some time in the middle, and didn’t have much to do with Raina going hammer and tongs at the other end.
Badri became Duminy’s second wicket as Dhoni came in and Chennai reached 141/3 in 17 overs. Thirty-four came off the next over, Dhoni shredding Perera for five sixes, one of which was almost an exact reprisal of his World Cup winning strike at the Wankhede. The Indian captain took two more maximums in Sammy’s last over of the innings, Chennai gaining 61 in the last 18 balls of their innings.
Amid this carnage, Steyn (2/23) and Duminy (2/27) stood out, as did the economical leg-spinner Amit Mishra, who was surprisingly used for only two overs at the cost of 13 runs. Perera, single-handedly, negated all the good work by conceding 60 in his three overs.