Indian T20 League: Magnificent Rahul help Punjab crush Chennai

With Punjab’s playoff hopes mathematically alive, K L Rahul had no option but to switch to carnage mode on a track where Chennai’s top-order struggled. The Punjab skipper single-handedly chased down 135 with seven overs to spare. He struck a fantabulous 98* off just 42 balls. Punjab couldn’t make it to the playoffs, but Rahul has played another memorable knock in the league.

Punjab grabbed their sixth win this season, while Chennai suffered a third successive defeat. Arshdeep Singh and Chris Jordan combined to trouble the three-time winners on Thursday. The duo grabbed the wickets of Ruturaj Gaikwad, Moeen Ali, Robin Uthappa, and Ambati Rayudu. It was Faf du Plessis who did the bulk scoring for Chennai with an excellent 76. Shardul Thakur bagged three of the four wickets to fall in Punjab’s innings.

Another day, another stutter

Chennai, unchanged from their last game, lost Gaikwad and Moeen in the powerplay. The 24-year-old top-edged to Shahrukh Khan at midwicket, while the all-rounder nicked the ball behind the stumps to Rahul. He departed for a six-ball duck. Left-arm pacer Arshdeep took both wickets, taking his tally to 18 in the 2021 edition. Chennai ended the powerplay on 30/2.

Jordan, who replaced Nicholas Pooran in the playing 11, struck in his fourth ball after Robin Uthappa pulled the ball to Harpreet Brar at deep square leg. The 35-year-old would have been disappointed not to make the most out of another opportunity. Rayudu marched back to the pavilion in the ninth over. He holed out to Arshdeep at deep point for just 4. It was Jordan’s 25th wicket in the Indian T20 League.

Du Plessis steadies the ship

Du Plessis stood firm despite Chennai losing wickets at regular intervals. He adapted to the conditions and put together a crucial 67-run stand with Ravindra Jadeja. The South African batsman, who accelerated in the death overs, made 35 runs from his last 15 balls, including back-to-back fours off Jordan and two sixes in the final two overs.

Shami removed Du Plessis in the final over, which went for 16. Chennai managed to add 52 runs from the last 30 balls of their innings. Young spinner Ravi Bishnoi was yet again economical. He cleaned up MS Dhoni for 12 and gave away only 25 runs in his quota of four overs. Despite bowling an expensive last over, Shami finished with 1/22. He picked up at least a wicket in every match in the UAE leg.

Rahul vs Chennai Bowlers

Punjab had to chase down 135 in quick time to keep their slim playoff chances alive. The opening pair notched up 42 runs in the first 24 balls. It was Deepak Chahar who found himself at the firing line of Rahul’s onslaught. He conceded 25 runs from his opening two overs. Chahar’s bowling partner Josh Hazlewood, who bowled a tight first over, was thrashed by Rahul, who hit two fours and a six. Rahul raced to 33 off just 15 balls.

Shardul pegged Punjab back by sending Mayank Agarwal and Sarfaraz Khan back to the pavilion in the space of three balls. However, Rahul showed no signs of slowing down. He scored a four off Hazlewood and made 11 runs in Shardul’s second over. Shahrukh, too, made his contribution with a giant six. Chahar, back for his second spell, dismissed Shahrukh, who holed out to Dwayne Bravo at long-on. Rajasthan moved to 92/3 at the halfway mark of the run chase.

Three overs, 47 runs

Rahul, who brought up his fifty in 25 balls, struck a third six off Chahar. Punjab went past the three-figure mark. Veteran Bravo saw his second over go for 20 runs. Two sixes and a few extras helped Punjab move to nine runs away from a win. Thakur had his third wicket when Markram got out caught behind by Dhoni. Rahul steered them to a victory by hammering a four and a six in successive balls. He was unbeaten on 98 with eight sixes and seven fours.

It was yet another disappointing campaign for Punjab. The Mohali-based side, who failed to qualify for the playoffs for the sixth season in a row, lost a couple of matches from winning positions. Much like last season, the middle-order failed to score runs. The overseas players couldn’t live up to their hype. Bishnoi and Arshdeep emerged standout performers with the ball, picking up 30 wickets between them. Meanwhile, Chennai will be keen to find form ahead of the Qualifier 1 clash against Delhi on Sunday.

Chennai 134/6 in 20 overs (F du Plessis 76; C Jordan 2/20, A Singh 2/35)

Punjab 139/4 in 13 overs (K L Rahul 98*; S Thakur 3/28)

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