No team had successfully chased against Sunrisers Hyderabad in IPL 2018, before they ran into Chennai Super Kings at the MCA stadium in Pune on Sunday (May 13).
Chennai were up against a stiff challenge once they opted to field, and it became only tougher after Hyderabad posted 179 for 4, courtesy quick half-centuries from Shikhar Dhawan (79 off 49) and Kane Williamson (51 off 39), both batsmen extending their form from their previous game against Delhi Daredevils.
But like he had done in the reverse fixture, Ambati Rayudu rose to the occasion and hammered an unbeaten 62-ball 100 – his maiden IPL ton – to make light work of the task. He was aided massively by Shane Watson, who scored a half-century and was involved in a 134-run opening stand.
Victory took Chennai to 16 points with two games to go, massively enhancing their chances of qualifying for the playoffs.
Fortunes swung both sides in the first half of the match. The first phase was won by Chennai with Deepak Chahar, returning after recovering from a hamstring injury, utilising helpful conditions in a spell of 4-0-16-1.
Chahar swung the ball both ways and stifled the Hyderabad top order, also bagging the wicket of Alex Hales in the process. Chennai should have had Dhawan too for just five, but they failed to review a leg before call when Shardul Thakur had trapped him in front.
Chennai conceded only 51 runs in the first nine overs, but the non-review would cost them big as Dhawan got into the act in the second phase. Hyderabad shifted gears effortlessly, the opener targeting Ravindra Jadeja successfully.
Williamson, who had managed only 11 runs from his first 20 balls, too got into the act and took on Watson, easing the burden on Dhawan. Hyderabad scored 11, 13 and 14 runs respectively off overs 10, 11 and 12 to shift the momentum their way. Out of nowhere, they had 130 runs on board by the end of the 15th over.
With both Dhawan and Williamson crossing their half-centuries, the stage was set for a strong finish but Chennai pulled things back in the third phase. That was courtesy Dwayne Bravo, who first foxed Dhawan with a slower ball, and then ran across swiftly in the deep to catch Williamson the very next ball. Not only was the 123-run stand broken, but Hyderabad also slipped to 141 for 3 in the 17th over, with two new batsmen in. It required a late cameo by Deepak Hooda to lift Hyderabad close to 180.
With clouds hovering over the stadium and Hyderabad having the likes of Bhuvneshwar Kumar and Sandeep Sharma renowned to swing the ball, the challenge seemed stiff for Chennai.
Watson, though, negated the early threat taking Sandeep for two sixes and Bhuvneshwar for one. The duo was guilty of bowling short to Watson, but when they pitched up, Rayudu drove and went inside out for boundaries.
Soon, the carnage was unstoppable from both ends. Even a turn to the spinners – Shakib Al Hasan and Rashid Khan – couldn’t stop the duo; Chennai scored 53 off the Power Play, and 93 by the end of the tenth over.
Watson first got to his half-century and was followed by Rayudu, who got to his in style with a pulled six off Siddarth Kaul. He upped the ante even further after the landmark, striking clean and big around the ground.
The cruise was halted slightly when Watson was run out – his old, tired legs not stretching enough – and Suresh Raina caught off successive overs, but by then, Chennai needed only 43 off 35.
For Hyderabad to get back into the game from there, they needed wickets, but once Manish Pandey dropped an absolute sitter at long-on offered by MS Dhoni when on 2, the shoulders dropped. Rayudu rubbed it in with more attacking shots and brought up his century with a single off Bhuvneshwar, as Chennai cantered home without much fuss.