Chennai came close to winning their third match of IPL 2018 in a row but their victory march was halted by Punjab in an agonising four-run win for the hosts in Mohali on Sunday. But what impressed CSK coach Stephen Fleming the most was the character his bowlers showed to come back and restrict KXIP to under 200.
Playing his first match of this IPL season, Chris Gayle's 33-ball 63 and his 96-run opening partnership with KL Rahul put Punjab on course for a 200-plus total. However, a middle-order stutter, which included two wickets off consecutive balls by legspinner Imran Tahir, limited Punjab to 197/7.
Tahir ended with figures of 2/34 while Shardul Thakur took 2/33. Dwayne Bravo, who bowled a miserly last over, took 1/37. Harbhajan Singh and Shane Watson took a wicket each.
Dhoni then almost pulled off a heist with his 79 not out in just 44 balls, but it didn't happen.
"The character in the second half of our bowling innings was very good as we were able to get some wickets and create some pressure," said Fleming. "So I am really impressed and proud of the effort."
About the advantage of chasing, Fleming said, "When you are chasing, you get certainty in an uncertain game, so you can manage your risk as you saw MS (Dhoni) managing his risk almost to perfection today. There were a couple of good yorkers from Mohit Sharma (in the final over) that denied the win.
"So the way the game is going, there is certainty around managing risk and the ability of players to hit and chase down 15, 16 and 18 runs an over," he said.
Asked if there are any areas which CSK is looking to improve in the coming games, Fleming said, "I'd love a game where we bowl a team out for 140 and chase it down. But the competition is very even. Wickets at the top are important," he added.
(With PTI Inputs)