IPL 2023: Ajinkya Rahane stands out among the batters as clinical CSK prevail over KKR

If there was one word to describe Chennai Super Kings’ performance against Kolkata Knight Riders in their Indian Premier League match at Eden Gardens on Sunday, it would be: Clinical.

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Sunday witnessed a perfect win for CSK against KKR in the latter’s home ground, and courtesy a dominant display by the batters, the match was more or less sealed in the first-half itself.

Devon Conway (56), Ajinkya Rahane (71*) and Shivam Dube (50) scored half-centuries to help CSK post the highest T20 total at Eden Gardens (235/4), but it’s only fair to say that every CSK batter rose up to the big occasion.

Be it Ruturaj Gaikwad’s 20-ball 35 or Ravindra Jadeja’s eight-ball 18, none of the CSK batters’s performances went unnoticed. And it did not even feel like they were missing the services of Ben Stokes and Deepak Chahar.

Conway continues a streak, Rahane stands out again

Sunday was not the first occasion when Ajinkya Rahane stood out among the rest. Well, practically, it was the trio of Rahane, Conway and Dube who stood out on Sunday, but what made Rahane’s knock unique was his aggressive approach to the innings.

Rahane came into bat at number three in the eighth over following Gaikwad’s dismissal, and collected a boundary off Suyash Sharma’s delivery in the first over he faced. Almost four overs, later, Rahane would once again beat Suyash for another boundary in the 12th over, but it was not until the 14th over when the 34-year-old actually changed gears.

Rahane was facing Umesh Yadav in that over, and he literally punished the pacer in that one, slamming two consecutive sixes and a four to give himself some confidence. Rahane went over deep backward square for the first maximum, while hoisting over fine leg for the second six.

That was followed by a four, courtesy a stunning cover drive from the Man of the Moment yet again, Rahane himself.

Rahane, who forged an 85-run stand with Shivam Dube for the third wicket, continued picking the important runs, even by rotating strike with singles, and even brought up his fifty off just 24 balls in the final ball of the 17th over, but he was not done just yet.

After flicking Kulwant Khejroliya for a four in the final ball of the 18th over, Rahane would then punish Varun Chakaravarthy for two powerful sixes over long on, and then a four, opening the face of the bat to dispatch over short third man.

Rahane’s 29-ball 71 was so reminiscent of his 27-ball 61 not long back against Mumbai Indians early in April.

New Zealand’s Devon Conway, too, has been in fine form this season, and he went one better on Sunday with his fourth consecutive fifty in the IPL this season.

Conway had scores of 50, 83 and 77* in his last three matches, and Sunday was yet another perfect example of what can happen when the Kiwi batter gets going.

Conway, who put up a 73-run stand for the first wicket with Gaikwad, got to his fifty in 34 deliveries, and his knock was the first of many productive knocks from the CSK outfit that would help them post an unassailable total.

“My partnership with Rutu at the top, it calms the nerves for me. We try to keep it simple. A lot of credit goes to Rutu,” said Conway after the match, while also adding how special it was to have MS Dhoni in the team setup.

“We have a good vibe in the group. For us, it’s about continuing this momentum and moving forward in the tournament. Having MS in your group, it’s great to have him. It does feel like a home fixture every time we play. CSK fans get behind him and us as a group, good to be part of this group,” the Kiwi batter added.

Worrying signs for KKR

KKR have found life without the injured Shreyas Iyer very hard. Their only two victories came against Royal Challengers Bangalore and Gujarat Titans, and the defeat to CSK was their fourth in a row this season.

KKR are currently in eighth place in the IPL standings with just four points, exactly as many points away from top four.

With KKR having completed half of their league games, the road is only going to get tougher for Nitish Rana and Co.

For Rana, the defeat to CSK was ‘tough to digest’.

“Tough to digest. Always going to be difficult chasing 236 especially if you don’t have a good powerplay. Have to give credit to Rahane. As I said, it’s tough to digest that we conceded a score like that. We do have some positives. But if you don’t improve. If you keep repeating mistakes against such a big team, you’ll lose,” Rana had said at the post-match presentation ceremony.

Jason Roy scored 61 after coming into bat at No 5, while Rinku Singh remained unbeaten on 53. Most of the other batters lacked confidence and failed to get going.

Will Roy bat up the order? And is there a need to rethink the team strategy? These will be some questions KKR will need to answer before their next game against RCB on Wednesday.

CSK, meanwhile, sit atop the standings with 10 points and will get an opportunity to build on that momentum, when they lock horns against Rajasthan Royals on Thursday.

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