A resolute 98 off just 55 balls (10x4, 5x6) by man of the match Suresh Raina, and good bowling by Lakshmipathy Balaji (four for 21), Albie Morkel (two for 21) and Jacob Oram (two for 27), helped Chennai Super Kings beat Rajasthan Royals by 38 runs in their Indian Premier League match at the Centurion on Thursday.
It was Chennai's first win over Rajasthan in the competition, having lost all their three meetings in the inaugural season.
M S Dhoni's side also secured only their second victory in the second edition of the IPL. Prior to this, last year's finalist had lost three of their five matches.
Rajasthan, on the other hand, lost for the third time in six outings. If they don't sort out their batting woes soon enough, the defending champions will have to relinquish the title sooner than expected.
Rajasthan's convincing win over Delhi made their captain Shane Warne realize it is not easy to defend a total at SuperSport Park (Centurion). He had no hesitation in putting the opposition in the moment he won the toss.
The fact that Chennai captain Mahendra Singh Dhoni concurred Warne's reading of the wicket, saying he would have also liked to bowl first, reiterates what an astute captain Warne is.
Think we are going overboard as regard Warne's leadership qualities? Then read on
The Australian came up with another masterstroke by handing Yusuf Pathan the ball as early as the second over.
The result was immediate.
Yusuf struck with his first ball getting the wicket of the dangerous Matthew Hayden (1/2). The Australian opener, holder of the Orange cap for most runs (216), in a bid to hit the ball over the short off side fence gave himself excess room, missed and saw his stumps being dislodged.
In came Suresh Raina, and he tried to ease pressure by first smashing Dimitri Mascarenhas out of the ground for the maximum and then directing the ball to the boundary between point and cover.
However, Parthiv Patel (3/11) compounded Chennai's early woes with a rather tame dismissal -- hitting a Yusuf delivery straight to Kamran Khan at point.
Chennai 19 for two after four, and Yusuf, whose belligerent 62 not out had taken Rajasthan home against Delhi, had struck with the ball on this occasion, removing both the openers.
Dhoni too took a gamble by promoting S Badrinath up the order and the Tamil Nadu batsman did justify his captain's faith in him by playing the sheet anchor's role and letting Raina take the attack to the opposition from the other end.
Raina obliged, first smashing Yusuf for the maximum over the long-off boundary and repeating the feat off Munaf Patel eight balls later, this time over deep backward point.
The introduction of Siddharth Trivedi, who had replaced Paul Valthaty in the squad, in the ninth over, helped Chennai break the shackles to a considerable extent.
Raina smashed the Gujarat bowler for successive boundaries -- the first he guided past the keeper and the second down to fine leg -- and Badrinath too helped himself to a boundary.
The over cost Rajasthan 14 runs.
And when Raina got two boundaries off Warne's first over, one courtesy a Swapnil Asnodkar misfield at deep midwicket and the second wide of cover (a shot that got him to his half century), it ensured Chennai went into the strategic time out having wrested the advantage back from their rivals.
An unbeaten 64-run partnership for the third wicket had helped Chennai reach 81 for 2 at the break and simultaneously, forced the Rajasthan think tank to rework their priorities.
However, Rajasthan were up to the task, making a breakthrough soon after resumption.
Warne struck with the first ball of his second over, enticing Badrinath with a tossed up lolly and Mahesh Rawat completed an easy stumping.
Badrinath scored 29 off 27 balls (4x4).
And in the next over, Jacob Oram (2/6), in his attempt to hit Munaf out of the ground, succeeded only in finding Mascarenhas at long off.
In the three overs after the interval, Rajasthan had stemmed the flow of runs, giving away only eight, and, in the process, making a couple of crucial breakthroughs.
Runs continued to come in a trickle for the next three overs before Raina again broke the shackles in the 17th over with successive boundaries off Trivedi, the first of a perfect placement to extra cover and the second through midwicket. The over yielded a dozen.
The next over was far more dramatic. Kamran Khan bowled just four balls, before leaving the field with his ankle hurt, and conceding 21 runs.
Dhoni started the onslaught with a maximum over long leg and Raina helped himself with successive sixes, the first over deep backward point and the second smashed over extra cover.
Kamran's fifth was a no-ball and as he didn't bowl the 'free hit' delivery, walking off the field instead.
Warne's 'tornado' had suffered maximum damage, both in terms of runs and injury.
Mascarenhas completed the over giving away three more runs.
In Munaf's final over, Raina smashed the third ball to extra cover fence to complete what he believed was a century, thanks to a blip in his giant scoreboard.
He fell to the next delivery, brilliantly caught by Graeme Smith at backward point.
Raina's innings had been their tour de force, and his 71-run fifth wicket partnership with captain Dhoni (22/19) had given Chennai what they had hoped for at the start -- a challenging total.
Rajasthan's innings began in an obvious manner. The fact that their first four batsmen have failed to get going in this tournament has been the lone factor behind their inconsistent performance. And Thursday was no different.
Graeme Smith (2/5) failed with the bat yet again, edging countryman Morkel straight to Badrinath at point.
Asnodkar, who has so far been one of the biggest failures, didn't bother to impress his critics. He marked his entry clubbing Oram over deep midwicket for the maximum. However, three balls later he handed Morkel his second wicket.
There has not been any difference in the manner Asnodkar (10/8) has performed in all the matches this season. But the manner in which he was dismissed on Thursday was different.
The Goan batsman, while trying to pull a short one, knocked his stumps while also allowing Sudeep Tyagi to take a catch at square leg. He was eventually adjudged 'hit wicket'.
Rob Quiney (28/31) was fortunate to survive a stumping chance, when Dhoni failed to gather cleanly off Raina. But the Australian failed to make the most of his good fortune, Raina trusting himself to get the wicket (a leg before decision).
Rajasthan went into the strategic time out precariously placed at 61 for three, needing 104 of the final 10 overs.
The onus was again on Yusuf (20/13) but, on this occasion, the law of averages caught up with him.
The big-hitting batsman did hit a few boundaries, three to be precise, but was lured by Balaji to hit one straight to Raina at long-off.
Mascarenhas (8/8) followed two overs later, caught by Murali at short cover off Oram. And with five overs left, it was a lost cause for Rajasthan. The defending champions needed 67 runs with half their side -- those who mattered -- back in the pavilion.
Ravindra Jadeja tried to salvage their cause somewhat, first with a six of Murali over deep midwicket and then a boundary to third man off Oram.
But his rebellion had a short life, Hayden taking a skier at deep square leg off Balaji to end his resistance.
Jadeja made 37 of 33 (2x4, 1x6), the highest individual innings in the Rajasthan innings.
The captain, Warne, fell three balls later, caught by Badrinath at long-off.
The requirement was 48 runs off 12 balls. And it was too much of an ask for the lower order.
Munaf (0) was snapped up by Oram first ball and when Trivedi (2/3) holed out to Raina at long-on (of Balaji), it was all over.
Kamran Khan, who had injured his ankle while bowling, didn't come out to bat. Not that he would have made any difference.