You can't rule out Chennai Super Kings. They are no strangers to wriggling out of a difficult situation, and they did it again in Jaipur, when it seemed their playoff prospects were in peril. The teams, at a crucial juncture in the season, could ill-afford a slip-up, and Super Kings huffed and puffed in a low-scoring chase but made it thanks to a late onslaught from Albie Morkel and S Anirudha. They completely altered the flow of a game heading for a close finish and, with 13 points in the bag, Super Kings broke into the top four.
Royals were favourites when they had Super Kings at 84 for 6 in the 17th over, the wicket of Ravindra Jadeja, caught in the deep, prompting a roar of relief from a usually calm Rahul Dravid. But Super Kings were always in the game with Morkel around, and Anirudha matched him shot for shot as the Royals bowlers buckled under pressure. That surge, which produced 43 off 13 balls, left the home crowd deflated and Royals stunned by the sudden transformation it wrought.
As has often been the case this IPL, the seamers erred at the death, with attempts at bowling yorkers failing miserably to end up as length deliveries. With 41 needed off 21, Morkel launched Pankaj Singh just over the long-off boundary, a mistimed hit carrying all the way. A top-edged four and a single later, the equation was down to 30 required off three overs.
Not even the experienced Shane Watson could maintain Royals' hold. A length ball was smashed over long-on, and Anirudha, having a go himself instead of giving his senior partner the strike, pulled over the midwicket fence before steering a full toss past point for a boundary. Shaun Tait was brought back with 12 needed off 12, but another pitched up delivery was swung towards cow corner. Tait then bowled Anirudha with a perfect yorker, only to find out he'd overstepped, just marginally, before doling out five wides down the leg side to hasten the finish.
Morkel and Anirudha undid an impressive performance from the Royals bowlers for the bulk of the innings; they had given the hosts hope of defending their lowest score this season. Suresh Raina had looked threatening, finding boundaries with effortless ease but his attempt to go over extra cover failed against Pankaj. Michael Hussey and Dwayne Bravo tried to consolidate but the ball was not coming on well enough on a slow track, and the Royals bowlers, especially Siddharth Trivedi, kept the pressure on with their accuracy. Bravo holed out, Hussey was run out, MS Dhoni slashed one to point and Jadeja soon followed. That was until Morkel and Anirudha got together.
Royals' below-par score owed partly to the frustration of having their innings interrupted three times by rain, but largely to some disciplined bowling by the Super Kings seamers, especially Ben Hilfenhaus, that kept the batsmen in check. Hilfenhaus beat the bat often, getting the ball to nip away past the outside edge, and maintained a tight line in the channel outside off. His victims were Dravid and Watson, both caught while trying to accelerate during a troubling spell; Watson was brilliantly taken by R Ashwin, diving forward at third man.
While Hilfenhaus finished with figures of 2 for 8 in four overs, Yo Mahesh backed him up with the wickets of Ajinkya Rahane and Stuart Binny, out after a brief counterattack. Though Brad Hodge targeted the spinners for a couple of boundaries, and an erratic Bravo was taken for runs, the good work done at the start of the game by Super Kings' bowlers was to serve their middle order well in the end.