It took four games and Angelo Mathews’s absence for Steven Smith to finally find a place in the Pune Warriors India (PWI) eleven. At the end of the game against the Chennai Super Kings (CSK), at the M.A. Chidambaram Stadium on Monday, he succeeded in making it extremely hard for PWI to leave him out again.
It seemed as if he could do nothing wrong. With an unbeaten 39 off 16 balls, he took his side from 101 for two to a competitive 159, plucked three catches and turned in an outstanding fielding display as Pune registered a 24-run upset win.
Chasing 160, the CSK innings got off to a disastrous start. S. Anirudha, opening the batting in the absence of Michael Hussey, was out leg before to the now familiar ‘swing-a-mile’ delivery from Bhuvneshwar Kumar (4-1-12-2).
Suresh Raina tried to heave Bhuvneshwar on the leg side and succeeded only in finding T. Suman at mid-wicket.
Abhishek Nayar, bowling his first over in this year’s edition, accounted for Murali Vijay, who was earlier dropped by Suman in the second over.
With 74 to get from seven overs and six wickets in hand, and big-hitters M.S. Dhoni and Albie Morkel still around, CSK fans would have hoped for a déjà vu. But it was not to be and one could spot fans vacating the stadium with 42 needed off two overs.
Nothing to lose
Earlier, stand-in skipper Ross Taylor, who elected to bat, said at the toss that his team had “nothing to lose”. However, the freedom that accompanies such a statement was visible only in Aaron Finch (67, 45b) at the outset and Smith later on — a six each over deep backward square and third man (off a reverse sweep) being his standout shots.
But for these two, PWI laboured. Robin Uthappa made 26 off 33 and Taylor eight off 13. Between overs 10 and 16, PWI scored just 28 and lost two wickets. It was drought amid plenty, for in the last five overs the Pune side notched up 53 runs.
Finch was quick off the blocks with three boundaries in the first over. His 50 came in the ninth over — his second in three games.
But Uthappa’s excruciatingly slow innings meant that Finch had too big a burden to carry before he was stumped by Dhoni off Ravindra Jadeja.
Jadeja, R. Ashwin and Chris Morris bowled impressive four over spells, while Dwayne Bravo, though a touch expensive, bowled a brilliant 18th over, giving away just three runs. Also, eyebrows were raised when Albie Morkel, playing his first match in IPL-6, was not given a bowl.
Pune Warriors India: Robin Uthappa c Jadeja b Morris 26 (33b, 2×4), Aaron Finch st. Dhoni b Jadeja 67 (45b, 10×4, 2×6), Ross Taylor c Jadeja b Morris 8 (13b), Steven Smith (not out) 39 (16b, 3×4, 3×6), Mitchell Marsh c Morkel b Bravo 2 (4b), Manish Pandey b Bravo 9 (8b, 1×4), Abhishek Nayar (not out) 0 (1b); Extras (lb-6, w-2): 8; Total (for five wkts. in 20 overs): 159.
Fall of wickets: 1-96 (Finch), 2-101 (Uthappa), 3-118 (Taylor), 4-128 (Marsh), 5-159 (Pandey).
Chennai Super Kings bowling: Dirk Nannes 4-0-42-0, Ravindra Jadeja 4-0-27-1, R. Ashwin 4-0-24-0, Chris Morris 4-0-25-2, Dwayne Bravo 4-0-35-2.
Chennai Super Kings: S. Anirudha lbw b Bhuvneshwar 0 (2b), Murali Vijay c Taylor b Nayar 24 (22b, 2×4, 1×6), Suresh Raina c Tirumalasetti Suman b Bhuvneshwar 8 (10b, 1×4), S. Badrinath c Smith b Marsh 34 (26b, 4×4), Ravindra Jadeja c Dinda b Marsh 27 (22b, 1×4, 1×6), M.S. Dhoni c Smith b Dinda 10 (13b), Dwayne Bravo c Smith b Sharma 1 (4b), Albie Morkel c Finch b Dinda 13 (11b, 1×6), Chris Morris (not out) 5 (5b), R. Ashwin (not out) 11 (5b, 2×4); Extras (w-2): 2; Total (for eight wkts. in 20 overs): 135.
Fall of wickets: 1-0 (Anirudha), 2-23 (Raina), 3-40 (Vijay), 4-86 (Badrinath), 5-98 (Jadeja), 6-104 (Bravo), 7-115 (Dhoni), 8-124 (Morkel).
Pune Warriors India bowling: Bhuvneshwar Kumar 4-1-12-2, Ashoke Dinda 4-0-34-2, Mitchell Marsh 4-0-35-2, Abhishek Nayar 3-0-21-1, Aaron Finch 1-0-9-0, Rahul Sharma 4-0-24-1.
Man-of-the-match: Steven Smith.