Cricket and batting for Shikhar Dhawan is a celebration, a waltz where he expresses himself.
The left-handed opener’s unbeaten 59-ball 88 was a major hand in Punjab Kings’ 11-run win over Chennai Super Kings in their IPL clash at the Wankhede Stadium on Monday.
Eventually, Punjab Kings’ 187 for four after being inserted proved a couple of hits too far for CSK with the talismanic M.S. Dhoni blasting a four and a six towards the end but succumbing to seamer Rishi Dhawan’s outside-the-leg-stump delivery in the last over.
It was a chase where Ambati Rayudu did some heavy lifting with a 39-ball 78, of nifty footwork, innovative stroke-play and power.
Rayudu’s onslaught on seamer Sandeep Sharma was breathtaking. It was brave, raw and brutal with leg-side sixes, a slashed six and an on-the-walk boundary,
The 16th over yielded 23 runs. CSK was in the hunt.
But then, champions pull their weight when it matters most. The fast Kagiso Rabada yorked Rayadu. It was a clinical strike.
Skipper Ravindra Jadeja and Dhoni struck a few hefty blows but miracles don’t happen every day. CSK has to rely on consistency.
CSK lost wickets in the chase. Robin Uthappa perished attempting to biff Sandeep into the Marine Drive. Mitchell Santner left his leg-stump exposed to Arshdeep and Shivam Dube played on to Dhawan.
Ruturaj Gaikwad, timing the ball sweetly, promised much but Rabada removed him with a fuller length ball just outside off.
For Punjab, the crafty left-arm seamer Arshdeep Singh too was a hero, bowling nervelessly at the death.
Earlier, the electrifying Liam Livingstone provided a boost to the Punjab innings with a seven-ball 19.
Livingstone cut loose with reflexes, power and precision. The key was the quickness with which he picked Dwaine Pretorious’ length.
Dhawan too innovated and created in the end overs, coaxing the ball through the gaps.
The 110-run partnership between Dhawan and Bhanuka Rajapaksa was the backbone of the innings.
Dhawan square-drove, back-cut and whipped the pacemen, and lofted and swept the spinners.
Rajapaksa (42), a natural striker of the ball, played his strokes with authority.
Left-arm spinner Santner bowled capably and it was surprising that he sent down just two overs.
Punjab wasn’t complaining.