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The side with the poorest recent record in IPL pulled off what is generally considered to be the competition’s toughest assignment: a victory over Chennai Super Kings at Chepauk.
Pune Warriors, without Yuvraj Singh and captain Angelo Mathews, managed precisely that on Monday night by a margin of 24 runs. The visiting side first posted 159 through bursts at the top and bottom of the order and then restricted Chennai to 135/8 in the chase, as Bhuvneshwar Kumar came up with a stand out performance with the new ball.
The young Indian seamer returned figures of 4-1-12-2, the scalps coming early in Chennai’s chase. Pune had earlier been served well by opener Aaron Finch’s 45-ball 67 and Steven Smith, who returned to the team and contributed a quickfire 39 and three smart catches in the deep.
Chennai’s pursuit started most inauspiciously. S. Anirudha – in the side for Mohit Sharma – was trapped in front by a now expected Bhuvneshwar in-swinger second ball. The home team would have plumbed deeper into distress were Vijay not dropped by Tirumalasetti Suman off Ashok Dinda in the second over, a straight-forward chance at mid-on off a savage pull.
Vijay (24) went on to strike a couple of scary blows off pacer Mitchell Marsh, but just when he was looking to ease into a groove a top-edge against Abhishek Nayar’s military medium claimed him at extra cover. That IPL behemonth Suresh Raina had, a little earlier, become Bhuvneshwar’s second victim - thanks to a mis-time to mid-on, placed Chennai in somewhat of a soup at 40/3 inside of seven overs.
Renowned escape artiste Ravindra Jadeja (27) and the dependable Subramaniam Badrinath (34) took things ahead. The latter was crisp as he pulled and steered Nayar and flicked Dinda for four. But Badri’s first and only moment of discomfort cost him his wicket: a slice high to Smith at long-off.
Having carted leggie Rahul Sharma for six, Jadeja frittered away a solid platform by guiding Marsh into the hands of short fine-leg. Sixty-one were required off the last five overs when Ms Dhoni struck Dinda hard and low to Smith at long-off, signaling the end of the chase.
Opener Aaron Finch’s 45-ball 67 stirred things up nicely to start with as the visitors, after choosing to bat at Chepauk, rode on a racy opening partnership. Finch claimed three boundaries in Dirk Nannes’ first over and seemed to deal exclusively in that manner of run-gathering, as his first 32 contained seven hits to the fence. Pune reached 48 without loss in the Powerplay, with Robin Uthappa (26) playing the holding roll.
Finch smoked sixes off spinners R. Ashwin and Jadeja and brought up his half-century in 32 deliveries, before he was stumped to the latter. Uthappa followed suit, holing out to South Africa all-rounder Chris Morris in an attempted correction of his dismal scoring rate.
Pune lost two more quickly. Morris got rid of Ross Taylor and Mitchell Marsh was taken in the deep off Bravo. Smith then came in for his first game of the season. The Aussiesmashed an unbeaten 39 in 16 balls, including commanding sixes off the seamers Nannes, Bravo and Morris. Smith’s charge pushed Pune to 159, a total they defended admirably by chipping away regularly at Chennai ‘s vaunted batting line-up.