Chennai, April 6 - Chennai Super Kings held their nerves to outclass Kings XI Punjab by 22 runs in the Indian Premier League (IPL) as K.L. Rahul (55 off 47) and Sarfaraz Khan's (67 off 59) laborious efforts went in vain at the M.A. Chidambaram Stadium here on Saturday.
Despite getting off to a horrible start in their chase of 161, Punjab opener Rahul and Sarfaraz stitched an excellent 110-run stand for the third wicket. The duo didn't attack the Chennai spinners in the slog overs and waited for the seamers to come in, but their decision backfired as the required run-rate mounted to 16 in the last few overs.
With just seven runs on board, Punjab lost opener Chris Gayle (5) and Mayank Agarwal (0) cheaply, thanks to Harbhajan Singh who accounted for both the wickets in the second over.
However, Rahul and Sarfaraz then denied Chennai to make any further inroads as the duo played some sensible cricket and went on to forge a crucial partnership.
At one stage, Punjab looked in a position to clinch the game as their scoreboard read 105/2 in 15 overs, but Harbhajan and Imran Tahir's economical 16th and 17th overs further raised the required run-rate.
As a result, Rahul tried to smash a Scott Kuggeleijn's delivery out of the park but ended giving an easy catch to Ravindra Jadeja in the deep.
Deepak Chahar added more sorrow to the Punjab camp as the pacer sent back David Miller (6) with the visitors needing 26 off the last over.
Kuggeleijn won the match for Chennai by bowling some fine slower deliveries to concede just three runs in the final over besides dismissing Sarfaraz, as the yellow brigade comfortably registered their fourth win of the tournament.
For Chennai, Harbhajan and Kuggeleijn bagged two wickets each.
Earlier, Chennai rode on fine knocks by Faf du Plessis (54 off 38), Mahendra Singh Dhoni (37* off 23 balls) and Ambati Rayudu (21* off 15 balls) to post 160/3 in 20 overs.
Punjab skipper Ravichandran Ashwin was the star with the ball as he picked up all the three wickets that fell to finish with figures of 3/23 from his four overs. While his strikes stemmed the flow of runs, Chennai scored 52 runs in the last five overs with Dhoni finishing well along with Rayudu.
Calling correctly, Chennai started well with Shane Watson and du Plessis looking to take on the Punjab bowlers. While Watson looked to attack from the word go, du Plessis looked to settle down before taking the attack to the opposition. After all, the Proteas skipper was playing his first match in this year's IPL.
The hosts looked comfortably placed, having scored 54 runs in the Powerplay without losing a wicket. But Ashwin broke the opening stand when he sent back Watson, caught by Sam Curran, for 26. Playing across the line to a carrom ball, Watson holed out to Curran in the deep with the scoreboard reading 56/1 in the 8th over.
du Plessis looked to continue the good work with Suresh Raina as the two looked to pick the ones and twos with the field spreading out. Chennai ended the 10th over with the score on 71 and du Plessis batting on 34 off 25 balls.
With spinners bowling from both sides, du Plessis looked to deal in sixes, but it was Ashwin who had the last laugh as he sent back du Plessis (54 off 38 balls) with another carrom ball.
Raina too followed suit when he tried to slog sweep an in-form Ashwin, only to miss the ball and see his stumps get rattled. With Raina gone for 17 in the 14th over, it was left to Dhoni and Rayudu to first consolidate and then finish well.
Chennai Super Kings: 160/3 in 20 overs (Faf du Plessis 54, M.S. Dhoni 37*; R. Ashwin 3/23) beat Kings XI Punjab 138/5 in 20 overs (Sarfaraz Khan 67, K.L. Rahul 55; Harbhajan Singh 2/17) by 22 runs