Raina stars as Chennai win Champions T20

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Suresh Raina (109*, 62 balls, 4×4, 8×6) cracked the innings of the tournament, striking an imperious hundred that took the Chennai Super Kings to their second Champions League Twenty20 title.

CSK lost only two wickets in their chase of 181 that was made to look so straightforward despite the uncharacteristically sharp turn offered by the Chinnaswamy surface, as Raina’s epic knock put an end to the Kolkata Knight Riders’ record winning streak of 14 matches.

A high calibre intensity final was played to a full house in Bangalore and the largely yellow-wearing crowd were not disappointed as the favourites romped home. Sadly for impartial lovers of the game the final will always be remembered as being marred by the conspicuous absence of KKR’s star bowler, Sunil Narine, whose suspension from bowling on account of his action, came at the curious juncture of two days before the final and one week before India plays a series against that bowler’s West Indian team.

One cannot take issue with the ICC’s clampdown on off-spinners with bendy arms but the timing of Narine’s suspension is certain to attract cynicism given the extent to which it suited Mr N Srinivasan’s Chennai and Indian teams. KKR put up a good total on a turning track and they might well have won this final had he been in the side. It is no secret that players with more arm-bending actions played (on both teams) in today’s final.

In a match that was preponed (a word that exists only in Indian English) by an hour to 7pm, KKR were sent in to bat and made the most of the small boundaries as openers Robin Uthappa (39 off 32 balls) and Gautam Gambhir (80 off 52 balls) put on 90 runs in 10 overs and laid a perfect platform for a big innings before man-of-the-match Pawan Negi weaved his magic and claimed career-best figures of 5/22 in four overs.

Negi’s nagging lines took wickets often enough to keep KKR from racing away to a winning total as only Manish Pandey (32 off 19 balls) gave his openers worthwhile backup.

Narine’s replacement Pat Cummins (1/32) found timber in the opening over of the chase as Dwayne Smith’s (8 off 5 balls) bad run of form with the bat continued.

Raina came in first drop and casually snatched the game away from the defending IPL Champions. His composure in hitting eight towering sixes, most of them straight back over the bowler’s arm, represented an innings that any modern batsman would be extremely proud to have produced – it was an exhibition of class strokeplay at a strike rate of 176 runs per hundred balls. His 43-ball 90 against the Dolphins was even more violent and it was no surprise that the star was adjudged as man of the series.

The eight-wicket win might not have been had KKR enjoyed a bit more rub of the green. Raina was caught behind off his glove midway through his innings but survived the appeal, Cummins took a tricky boundary catch but threw the ball outside the ropes for six in a vain attempt at that deft and as yet unnamed new trick and Surya Yadav let the ball through his legs twice at the boundary for four. CSK just seemed destined to win.

The final was the only sold out match of a competition that failed to appeal to the appetites of fans here and away but CSK’s victory was a popular result for India’s favourite team.

It is yet to be decided where next year’s CLT20 will take place but it would be surprising if there were no changes made by the event organisers to what is no longer such a happening party.

Nick Sadleir
Freelance cricket and travel writer

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