Defending champions Chennai Super Kings rode on a 137-run partnership between Michael Hussey and Suresh Raina to easily defeat Rajasthan Royals and maintain their unbeaten record at home in the fourth season of the Indian Premier League on Wednesday.
After restricting Rajasthan to 147 for six, Raina (61, 51 balls, 3x4, 1x6) and Hussey (79 not out, 55 balls, 8x4, 1x6) faced hardly any problems in their century partnership while chasing down the total.
When Raina was finally dismissed, Chennai were just three runs short of victory.
Earlier, Rahul Dravid was Rajasthan's top performer with the bat, scoring a fluent 66 (51 balls, 10 fours).
Though Chennai's chase got off to a rocky start, with local boy Murali Vijay being rapped on the pads in the second over off Johan Botha, the in-form Hussey and Raina, who seems to have regained the touch that had deserted him for some time, steadily shepherded the team to victory.
The duo showcased a commendable mixture of caution with aggression as they rotated the strike and dispatched the loose deliveries to the boundary.
Hussey registered his fourth half century of the tournament while Raina got his second one on the trot.
The highlight of their partnership was the running between the wickets as they easily converted ones into twos and twos into threes.
Rajasthan's cause was not helped by sloppy fielding that saw three overthrows and at least one chance to run-out Raina go abegging.
Raina was on 47 then and a wicket could have put pressure on Chennai at that critical juncture.
While Raina repeatedly clipped the ball to third man during his knock, Hussey played shots all around the ground. A six and a four off left-arm spinner Nayan Doshi was the highlight of his innings.
With 327 runs, Hussey moved up in the list and is among the top two run-getters, with Sachin Tendulkar leading the pack.
Fittingly, he finished off the match with a cross-batted pull to midwicket off Siddharth Trivedi.
But things looked starkly different for Chennai earlier in the day, when Rajasthan threatened to pile up a huge score raking up 81 runs in the first 10 overs of their innings.
On a slow track that Rajasthan captain Shane Warne said would get even slower, the visitors frittered away a promising opening stand of 81, scoring only 66 in the last 10 overs and losing six wickets in the process.
While the home side fielded an unchanged line-up, Rajasthan inducted left-arm spinner Nayan Doshi in place of medium pacer Amit Singh, making it four spinners in their ranks.
The Royals rode on a fluent knock from Rahul Dravid, who scored 66 (51 balls, 10 fours), before holing out to deep midwicket off Suraj Randiv trying to up the ante.
It says much about the calibre of Rajasthan's batting that after Dravid's 66, the other significant contributor was Shane Watson, who scored 32 (26 balls, five fours).
Watson was an ideal foil for Dravid, but none of the other batsmen crossed 20.
Chennai coach Stephen Fleming had said before the match that though his side is unbeaten at home, each match is a scrap and this was no exception.
Outclassed in the first ten overs, CSK bounced back in the second half of the match, refusing to let their heads drop and bowling a probing length. It earned dividends, as most of the Royals players threw their wickets away after the opening stand of 81 was broken.
The pick of CSK's bowlers were Shadab Jakati and Albie Morkel, who returned with figures of 4-0-22-2 and 4-0-24-2 respectively.
Royals' disintegration started when Watson was dismissed to a stunner of a catch by Shadab Jakati, who plucked out a murderous Watson drive over long-on that was sailing over his head.
After a sober start, in which Dravid and Watson collected only 22 runs in the first four overs, the openers shifted gears with 14 runs coming in the fifth over and the team's fifty coming up in only 6.4 overs.
In his 10 boundaries, there were a bunch of back-foot punches over midwicket, three fours off Suraj Randiv in a single over that even included a reverse sweep, and a cut over point off a short, rising ball from Morkel.
Dravid, who has often been guilty of failing to convert starts this season, played positively and looked at ease right from the start. His knock was a mixture of some delectable boundaries and judicious singles.
He hit three more boundaries off Ashwin and Jakati before bringing up his fifty in 37 balls (9x4).
Former India Under-19 captain Ashok Menaria, who followed Watson, was dismissed shortly after when he impatiently tried to hit Ashwin over long-on.
South African all-rounder Johan Botha, who is having a good tournament, then followed soon, caught by Suresh Raina off a leading edge for 8.
Ross Taylor and Ajinkya Rahane showed signs of leading a fightback, but both fell off successive balls in the 19th over, to Morkel.