A tenacious display from Deccan Chargers' bowlers followed by a murderous assault from their opening batsmen secured their fourth consecutive win of the tournament and firmly established the Hyderabad side as the team to beat this season.
Pragyan Ojha once again bowled impressively - picking up two wickets in one crucial over, including that of the dangerous-looking Matthew Hayden - to restrict Chennai to merely 165 when they looked set for much more at one stage. The competitive target, however, was diminished by a withering assault from Adam Gilchrist and Herschelle Gibbs. They blitzed 60 runs off the first four overs and gave their team enough cushion against a few setbacks on their way to victory.
Gilchrist dictated terms from the first over, in which he drove L Balaji to the long-off and extra-cover boundaries. Gibbs took on Manpreet Gony in the next: he charged and lofted straight down the ground for four, pulled over the fine-leg boundary and hit two more fours to midwicket and square leg to take 20 runs off the over. Balaji dropped Gilchrist - a hard caught-and-bowled chance - in the third over and paid for it by conceding 17 runs. Gilchrist deposited the ball into the stands at deep square leg, pulled another one to the midwicket boundary, and launched yet another over the straight boundary. MS Dhoni brought Albie Morkel into the attack but there was barely any improvement as Gilchrist drilled him to the cover boundary and whacked him over the rope at square leg.
With the fast bowlers bleeding runs, Dhoni turned to spin and the breakthroughs came from the unlikeliest of operators. Suresh Raina struck twice with his offbreaks, inducing both Gilchrist, who clobbered 44 off 18 balls, and VVS Laxman to cut to short third man. Deccan had gone from 67 for 0 to 75 for 2 and they scored only 25 runs between overs six and ten. However, the early momentum provided by Gilchrist and the steady half-century from Gibbs, who batted through the innings, ensured that the lull did not do irreparable damage. Gibbs shifted to a lower gear but ensured that he was on strike when eight runs were needed off the last over. The first ball was full from Balaji, Gibbs got under it and heaved it over the deep midwicket boundary to ease Deccan's nerves.
A larger target would have stretched Deccan, given that they had only three balls to spare, and Ojha's double-breakthrough in the 13th over played a crucial role in keeping Chennai to 165. Hayden was at his bullying best, stepping out and muscling bowlers across the quick outfield at Kingsmead. Parthiv Patel continued the odd trend of teams losing a wicket before scoring a run but the early loss did not faze Hayden. He attacked RP Singh, the league's highest wicket-taker, immediately by walking down to swat him to the midwicket boundary and to cut over point. The extra pace and bounce of Fidel Edwards didn't make a difference either and Hayden advanced and powered him through the off side.
Hayden found an attacking partner in Suresh Raina but both batsmen were lucky to survive dropped catches. Raina was let off by debutant Azhar Bilakhia at gully when he was on two and Gilchrist grassed a tough chance to his left when Hayden was on 17. They made Deccan pay for their lapses during a 64-run stand for the second wicket.
Ojha repeated his performance against Mumbai Indians soon after the tactical time-out. Against Mumbai, he took three wickets in successive overs and today he managed to dismiss both Dhoni and Hayden in one. Chennai slipped from 102 for 2 to 103 for 4 in the space of three balls. Curiously Gilchrist didn't give Ojha another over and he finished with figures of 2 for 11 in two overs.
Jacob Oram, who replaced the injured Flintoff, provided Chennai with acceleration towards the end of the innings, hitting the debutant Shoaib Ahmed for massive sixes down the ground. Oram helped Chennai take 20 runs off the 18th over but their total proved too little against Deccan's in-form batting line-up.