Mahendra Singh Dhoni's blazing half-century saw Chennai Super Kings outclass Kolkata Knight Riders by 55 runs and register their first win in the third season of the Indian Premier League, at the Eden Gardens, in Kolkata, on Tuesday.
Electing to bat first, Dhoni lifted Chennai after the loss of a few early wickets with a whirlwind innings of 66 from 33 deliveries, that was inclusive of six boundaries and three sixes. He was involved in an unbroken stand of 109 runs in 65 balls for the fourth wicket with S Badrinath, who made 43 from 33 balls, to take Chennai to a healthy 164 for three in their 20 overs.
Kolkata Knight Riders lost wickets at regular intervals and were bowled out for 109 in 19.2 overs. The defeat ended their run of two straight wins.
All-rounder Justin Kemp shone with the ball for Chennai, claiming three for 12 in three overs, while Lakshmipathy Balaji took two for nine.
Kolkata's bowlers dominated the first half of the match, with Shane Bond and Ishant Sharma utilising the conditions quite well. Chennai were struggling at 55 for three in the tenth over before Dhoni's blast saw them score 83 runs in the last six overs and change the script completely.Chennai Super Kings:
Shane Bond, making his IPL debut, started off in superb fashion, conceeding just a single in his opening over. He went for another six runs in his next, including a boundary, for seven runs from two overs.
The pressure paid off as Matthew Hayden dragged it back to his stumps as he attempted to force Ishant Sharma through the off-side, after scoring just one from eight deliveries.
In the same over, Chennai nearly lost another wicket as Murali Kartik's throw from covers missed the stumps by a whisker much to the relief of Murali Vijay.
Chennai were finding it difficult to get going at the start as they reached 22 for one after five overs, having hit just three boundaries.
Suresh Raina broke the shackles when he flicked a full delivery from Laxmi Shukla through square leg and Vijay repeated the dose a few deliveries later for the second four of the over.
Kolkata pegged Chennai further with the wickets of Vijay and Raina in successive overs.
Vijay played all over a full delivery from Shukla and was bowled for 33 from 26 deliveries, having hit five boundaries. In the next over, straight after the strategic time out, Raina also lost his stumps when he tried to flick Brad Hodge over midwicket but missed and was bowled.
In that same over, Mahendra Singh Dhoni (3) got an early reprieve when wicketkeeper Wriddhiman Saha dropped a difficult catch down the leg side.
The boundaries dried up completely as the Chennai duo of S Badrinath and Dhoni dealt only in singles. Badrinath broke that sequence when he hit Bond for a boundary to take the total to 77 for three after 13 overs.
The duo then decided to lift the scoring rate and Badrinath flicked Mathews through fine leg for a four and Dhoni followed it up with a powerful hit down the ground for a six, in the 15th over.
Murali Kartik continued his good form in the tournament as he gave away just 21 runs in his four overs, without conceding a single boundary and having bowled 10 dot deliveries.
Ishant Sharma was hit for a boundary each by both the batsmen as Chennai finally looked to get a move on.
Dhoni then showed his muscle power as he slammed Shukla for two boundaries before despatching one in the stands over long-on for his second six of the innings, in the 18th over.
In the next over, he spoilt Bond's day as he carted him for two boundaries and a six in his last three deliveries for 17 runs in the over. He got a thick edge past that flew past Saha for a boundary to bring up his half-century off just 28 balls, while he pulled the next one over midwicket for a six and the final delivery was despatched through the covers.
Chennai made the most of the final few overs, smashing 83 runs in the last six, to post a competitive 164 for three in their 20 overs.
Dhoni provided the lift in the closing overs as he slammed 66 from 33 deliveries, having hit six boundaries and three sixes. Badrinath gave him good support with a steady innings of 43 from 33 balls. The two batsmen were involved in an unbroken stand of 109 from 65 balls for the fourth wicket.
All the Kolkata bowlers suffered in the final overs as Dhoni took all of them to the cleaners. Karthik once again impressed with the ball, giving away 21 runs in four overs, while Bond conceded 33 runs in four overs and Hodge got just a single over, taking one for four.
Albie Morkel, given the new ball, started off in roaring fashion with a wicket maiden. Brad Hodge lasted just two deliveries before pulling it straight to the midwicket fielder in the very first over of the innings to fall for a duck.
Manoj Tiwary started with two successive boundaries but the bowler, Manpreet Gony, had his revenge the very next delivery when he bowled him off an inside edge for eight. The pacer was unlucky not to have picked up another wicket in that over as Wriddhiman Saha's thick edge was dropped by Hayden at first slip.
Saha enjoyed another slice of luck in Gony's next over when his top edge off an intended pull shot flew over wicketkeeper Dhoni for a boundary. He then pulled the next delivery for a boundary but got lucky again when another inside edge flew past the stumps and wide of the keeper for the third four of the over as Kolkata reached 29 for two after four overs.
But Saha's luck soon ran out; he was bowled by Lakshimpathy Balaji in the next over, the fifth, as he looked to play across the line after a quick 22 from 13 balls.
Balaji then struck in his next over when he had Owais Shah caught behind off an edge for five, wicketkeeper Dhoni completing a good catch to his right.
It was turning out to be an evening when nothing was going right for the Kolkata batsmen.
Kemp then finished off whatever hopes Kolkata had by claiming three wickets in his first three overs. Captain Ganguly holed out to Albie Morkel at deep midwicket after a sedate knock of 11 from 20 deliveries. Angelo Mathews was trapped plumb in front of the stumps for six and Rohan Gavaskar's top edge was taken by Murali Vijay on the fine leg boundary for two.
In just his second match in the IPL, Kemp had registered amazing figures three for 12 in three overs.
The spinners also got among the wickets. Muttiah Muralitharan had Laxmi Ratan Shukla caught at deep square leg for 19 as he top edged the sweep shot. In the next over, Bond tried to a huge heave against R Ashwin only to miss and was bowled for 1.
Kartik stroked 21 from 20 deliveries before he was run out and Kolkata were bundled out for 109 in 19.2 overs, losing by 55 runs.
Kemp finished as the top bowler, claiming three for 12 in three overs, while Balaji took two for nine.
In the end, it can be safely said that Dhoni's blazing knock of 66 proved to be the difference between the two teams.