Scorecard: Kolkata Knight Riders v Chennai Super Kings
A Suresh Raina masterclass has handed Chennai Super Kings an eight-wicket victory over Kolkata Knight Riders in the Oppo Champions League T20 final in Bangalore.
KKR’s strong total of 7-180 was made to look positively average in the face of a Raina onslaught, with the left-hander blazing an unbeaten 109 from just 62 deliveries.
In the opening stages of the match, it wouldn’t have taken long for CSK captain MS Dhoni to start second-guessing his decision to bowl first, as Kolkata’s outstanding opening pair Robin Uthappa and Gautum Gambhir again left an opposition bowling attack searching for answers.
The pair hustled between the wickets expertly, rode their luck on occasions, and found the boundary regularly as they took complete control of proceedings, racing to 0-89 from the opening 10 overs.
As so often happens, when the breakthrough came, two wickets fell in quick succession, and left-arm orthodox spinner Pawan Negi grabbed both.
First to go was Uthappa (39 off 32), who advanced down the track looking to up the ante and found himself deceived in flight and hopelessly out of his ground, allowing Dhoni to complete a routine stumping.
Jacques Kallis, fresh from a match-winning performance in KKR’s semi-final success over Hobart only 48 hours earlier, came to the crease but looked immediately out of sorts.
The South African legend edged his first ball to first slip, only for Suresh Raina to miss a difficult chance diving to his right.
It was a missed opportunity that wouldn’t prove costly, as in Negi’s next over, Kallis attempted to loft down the ground, but was beaten by the bowler and skewed his stroke high to Ashish Nehra at cover point.
Gambhir then moved into overdrive, sensing a massive total may have been required against such high-class opposition, and taking Dwayne Bravo for 18 in the 16th over.
A couple of balls later, he was out for a superb 80 (52), failing to get to the pitch of one from Ravi Jadeja and mistiming his stroke down the ground, only to see Brendon McCullum complete an excellent catch diving forward.
With an in-form Manish Pandey at the crease, that sizeable total still looked very much on the cards, and the right-hander duly chipped in with a handy 32 (19) to keep the run rate hurtling along.
In Negi’s final over, the 19th, all that changed.
The 21-year-old, who took two wickets in the semi-final, removed Pandey with the first ball of the over, had Ryan ten Doeschate stumped off a wide with the third, and dismissed Suryakumar Yadav with the fifth to finish the innings with figures of 5-22.
Only some final-over savagery from Yusuf Pathan (20 not out from nine balls) ensured Kolkata reached the sort of total they’d been threatening in the first half of the innings, with the big-hitting right-hander taking 17 from the first five deliveries before Andre Russell chipped in with a couple to move the total to an imposing 180.
Australia’s 21-year-old speedster Pat Cummins then carried his side’s momentum into the second innings, bowling West Indian Dwayne Smith with a slower ball from the fifth delivery of the opening over.
The right-arm quick, brought into the side following Sunil Narine’s suspension, so very nearly made it two in two, as new man Suresh Raina inside edged his first delivery, narrowly avoiding the stumps and picking up four runs.
Quickly it became clear just what a bonus wicket it would have been for the Knight Riders, as Raina wasted no time in finding his groove.
The left-hander, who has more than 5000 runs to his name for KKR, plundered sixes over cover, long on and fine leg to propel Chennai to 1-60 at the end of the Powerplay.
Before the midway point, he reached his 50 from just 27 balls with a delightful cover drive for four, and together with New Zealander Brendon McCullum, began to make a difficult chase appear almost routine.
A short while later, McCullum enjoyed his first slice of luck and again Cummins was at the centre of the drama, catching the ball as he overbalanced on the rope, but failing to throw it back into the field of play.
Raina refused to take his partner’s close shave as a warning, opting instead to go longer and higher as he produced an innings of staggering quality on the big stage, belting eight sixes and six fours to almost singlehandedly ensure his side would finish victors.
McCullum (39 off 30) tried to follow his partner’s big-hitting ways but was caught on the midwicket boundary after the pair added 118 in 74 balls.
Dhoni, perhaps keen to get a front seat for the Raina pyrotechnics, elevated himself up the order, and promptly set about finishing things off in a hurry.
Sure enough, after Raina reached his hundred from just 59 balls, it was the skipper Dhoni (23 off 14) who plundered a pair of sixes to end the tournament on the highest possible note.
Kolkata Knight Riders
Gautam Gambhir (c), Robin Uthappa (wk), Jacques Kallis, Manish Pandey, Yusuf Pathan, Ryan ten Doeschate, Suryakumar Yadav, Andre Russell, Piyush Chawla, Kuldeep Yadav, Pat Cummins
Chennai Super Kings
Dwayne Smith, Brendon McCullum, Suresh Raina, Faf du Plessis, Dwayne Bravo, MS Dhoni (c, wk), Ravi Jadeja, Ravi Ashwin, Pawan Negi, Mohit Sharma, Ashish Nehra