In a batting line-up without Ambati Rayudu and Robin Uthappa, expectations were from more experienced batters like Devon Conway, Ruturaj Gaikwad, Moeen Ali, Shivam Dube, and Dhoni himself to shoulder the responsibility of scoring the majority of runs.
But Gaikwad did, Ali chipped in but Chennai still got stifled by an excellent Gujarat bowling attack to make just 133/5 and lose the game by seven wickets. Now, if one were to look at where Chennai lacked, two phases stand out — the first four overs and last five overs — connected by the same thread, with no boundaries from batters.
In the first four overs, Chennai made just 15/1. Shami got the breakthrough when he found the outside edge of Devon Conway’s bat on a ball straightening after pitching and giving a straightforward catch to Wriddhiman Saha.
Gaikwad and Ali were too cautious at the start though one would say that they made up for the sluggish beginning with 32 runs in the final two overs of power-play. In contrast, Gujarat were 35/0 in their four overs. Wriddhiman Saha hit six boundaries, including earning a reprieve on 21 when Gaikwad dropped his catch at point off left-arm pacer Mukesh Chowdhary.
Moreover, after a sluggish middle overs phase, where Gaikwad slowed down gradually while N Jagadeesan failed to get the required big shots, Chennai badly needed a great finishing flourish. But Gujarat struck with the scalps of Gaikwad, Dube, and Dhoni in quick succession while conceding no boundaries in the last five overs, giving just 24 runs in that period.
"To start off, batting first wasn’t a really good idea. The fast bowlers, their ball wasn’t coming on. That’s why the batsmen found it tough to hit. A bit more runs in the middle overs would have been good," was Dhoni’s assessment of his team’s defeat where they were comprehensively outclassed. Chennai were left wondering what would the result have been if they didn’t endure a zero boundaries phase twice in their innings.