Indian Premier League 2015
Watson hands IPL captaincy to Smith
Allrounder steps down to focus on his own game as Rajasthan eye charge towards playoffs
10 May 2015, 11:59 PM AEST
Brendon McCullum’s third half-century and Ravindra Jadeja’s belated return to form helped propel the Chennai Super Kings into the 2015 IPL playoffs with a win over Rajasthan Royals operating under a new captain in Steve Smith.
Shane Watson gave up the Royals captaincy to Smith in a bid to focus more on his own personal performances. Australia's Test captain-in-waiting, Smith had already taken the Rajasthan reins for several games to open the tournament this season with Watson missing through a hip injury picked up after taking a blow in the nets. However, this move is permanent.
"Shane has decided to hand the captaincy over to me just so he can focus more on his skills, his batting and his bowling," Smith confirmed at the post-match presentations.
"That's his decision, so I think that's how it's going to be for the rest of the tournament."
Rajasthan's South Africa allrounder Chris Morris gave further detail to IPLT20.com, explaining: "It happened a couple of days ago. Watto just thought he needed to focus more on his batting and bowling. It is a tough job to captain a T20 team, especially when you are bowling first and your mind is a bit all over the game.
"And then you come off and strap your batting pads on in 10 minutes. It becomes a bit of roller-coaster game.
"I doff my hat off to Watto for giving up the captaincy and taking more responsibility for his batting. It was a responsible thing to do. We all appreciate it as team men and move on from there."
Jadeja picked up a wicket in each of his four overs to hand Chennai a 12-run win after McCullum led the Super Kings to 5-157 in their 20 overs.
McCullum started slowly as he came to terms with a difficult pitch, but the introduction of Pravin Tambe allowed him to find his mojo on his way to a 61-ball 81.
Tambe, who has been put under a bit of pressure in recent games, was greeted by a flat six over extra-cover first ball. A few balls later, McCullum shimmied down the track to loft him over long-on for a second six.
In the sapping heat of Chennai, McCullum helped push the run-rate up, belting a couple of fours off James Faulkner before hitting Bhatia for a four and six to bring up his half-century.
Looking exhausted, McCullum found enough to dispatch Watson to and over the rope to reach the 80s before Morris got the better of him.
The South African speedster was on a hat-trick when he sent back Pawan Negi next ball but Dwayne Bravo averted that and together with MS Dhoni added 28 from the last 16 balls of the innings.
Watson bowled just two overs and conceded 19 while Faulkner’s poor run with the ball continued as he was smashed for 40 from his four.
IPL leading run-scorer Ajinkya Rahane fell early, Smith became Jadeja's first victim for just four and Watson reached 28 off 30 before he fell at the halfway mark.
Smith was bowled attempting to sweep but seemed to have moved too far outside the off and his stumps were pegged back.
Watson was brilliantly caught at long-on by the leaping Dwayne Bravo. A giant jump and a one-handed grab saved six runs, took the key scalp, was an instant highlight and put the Super Kings irrevocably on the course for victory.