Mohit Sharma was the pick of the bowlers for Chennai as he took three wickets (BCCI Images)
Pune: What was seen as a grudge match for Chennai Super Kings - they were beaten at home the last time they faced Pune Warriors - turned into one-way traffic as the IPL 6 table-toppers extended their lead over the next best team to four points with a 37-run win at the Subrata Roy Sahara Stadium on Tuesday. Aaron Finch spoke before the match about the need to play fearless cricket but Pune were far from that, conceding 62 in the last five overs with the ball and then suffering a manic collapse up front which left them at 54 for 5 in pursuit of 165.
Chennai's sixth win on the trot was set up by a late surge from Suresh Raina and MS Dhoni, who unleashed some fury at the death, and stamped by three early wickets from seamer Mohit Sharma. In contrast to Pune's deplorable collapse inside the Powerplay, Chennai crawled to 55 in ten overs, accelerated to 102 in 15 and then looted 62 off the last five to finish on a high with Raina unbeaten on 63 and Dhoni larruping 45 off 16 balls.
Chennai were dealt an early blow in the form of a rare failure for Michael Hussey, bowled for 5 off Kane Richardson's third delivery and with an unconvincing Wriddhiman Saha - he was reprieved first ball by umpire Subrat Das, missed five of his first ten deliveries and was nearly run out off his 13th - out for 13 to Rahul Sharma, the visitors crept to their second-lowest Powerplay score this season (29 for 2).
Raina was dropped on 16 at short midwicket by Luke Wright who misjudged the ball's travel after the batsman miscued a pull off Ashok Dinda and used the chance to collect his second fifty of the season. Raina ran well between the wickets with S Badrinath, who used his crease to try and offset the bowlers, and chose the deliveries to hit. Abhishek Nayar was scythed over point, Bhuvneshwar Kumar driven inside out Richardson heaved over midwicket for six: each Raina specialties.
A 75-run stand came to an end when Badrinath lofted Wright to long-on for 34, but Dhoni signaled his intent immediately by glancing four and smashing six over extra cover in his first two balls faced. Raina got to fifty in 42 balls as well as reaching 2500 tournament runs, after which he and Dhoni trained their sights on Dinda. The 18th over bled 17 as Raina drove ramrod-straight for four and Dhoni paddled and drove over mid-off, and the 20th cost 14 as Dhoni smoked ten off the last two balls - the innings closed with a towering straight six off which meant Dinda had conceded 31 in his last two overs.
From 21 for 0 in two overs, Pune lost three wickets in the space of five balls. Mohit Sharma nipped out Finch (15) and T Suman (0) with the fifth and sixth deliveries of his opening over, and then on the second of the next over Raina ran out Robin Uthappa with a brilliant pick-and-throw. Yuvraj Singh dispatched Mohit Sharma's hat-trick ball for four over midwicket but was consumed by the same bowler for 5, slashing outside off to give Dhoni another catch. When Wright was run out at the nonstriker's end as Albie Morkel deflected a drive from Steven Smith, Pune had slumped to 54 for 5.
The match all but over, Pune struggled to get to 127. Nayar was the third batsman to be run out (61 for 6) and Smith top-scored with 35 before popping a catch back to Ravindra Jadeja and the lower order never came close to putting up a fight.