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“A Dhoni shaped hole is a huge one to fill.”, Stephen Fleming’s statement from last week’s press conference found its real life example, yet again. Batting first, CSK’s top order struggled to tackle Delhi’s variations. Early introduction of spinners was, once again, a sign of the unconventional Chennai wicket hosting some turn. Despite losing only a single wicket, CSK managed only 69 in the first 12 overs. Raina and du Plessis found it tough to gain any momentum and eventually succumbed in the 14th and 15th over respectively. While the former completed his 50th half century, the latter departed for almost a run-a-ball 41. It was now upto Dhoni and Jadeja to finish the innings. Having been promoted up the order, both, to no surprise, looked to attack straight away.
The stage was set when the 15th as well as 16th over went for 14 apiece. Jadeja cruised to 25 of just 9 balls before giving away a return catch to Chris Morris. But his crucial hits helped Dhoni get accustomed to the wicket and the conditions. The last couple of overs were indeed the Turning points of the match as ‘Thala’ Dhoni extracted 39 off them, finish up with an impressive 44* of a mere 22 balls. His innings not only dictated the momentum for the hosts but also rose the spirits of the home crowd. A one-handed six off the no ball in the last over was perhaps one for generations to remember.
Similar consistency and unpredictability were portrayed in his captaincy as CSK, banking on his spinners, ran through Delhi’s top order. Two out-of-the-world lightning quick stumpings within 3 deliveries from the skipper in the back-end meant curtains for Delhi Capitals. The win took CSK back to the top of the points table and for the umpteenth time, proved the need, strength and importance of Dhoni in CSK’s bid to defend its title.