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Chepauk choke: Chennai Super Kings' game plan a throwback to 2011

The ball grips, turns, and plays more tricks. MS Dhoni is front and centre, marshalling Chennai Super Kings' spin-heavy attack. There's no way out for the opposition at fortress Chepauk. It's 2011 all over again for Super Kings at home.

Eight years ago, Super Kings had won eight out of eight games here, including the final against Royal Challengers Bangalore. Now, they've won four out of four at Chepauk by straitjacketing batsmen with spin.

In 2011, R Ashwin, Shadab Jakati and Suraj Randiv did the job for Dhoni. Super Kings have a more potent spin attack this season, with Imran Tahir, Harbhajan Singh and Ravindra Jadeja leading the way. They've been so potent that Kedar Jadhav hasn't bowled at all this season and Suresh Raina has bowled just one over, in the first match, against Royal Challengers.

Last year, Super Kings were ready to let their spinners loose at Chepauk, but the Cauvery river water dispute forced their home matches to shift to Pune, where surfaces tend to aid the faster men more. There have been no such problems this season.

They have lost Lungi Ngidi and David Willey altogether and Dwayne Bravo temporarily, but their vintage spin attack has more than made up for their absence, so much so their batting coach Mike Hussey reckoned that the spinners have it in them to bowl at the death.

On a tired Chepauk pitch - the one that was used for the game against Kings XI Punjab on Saturday - Harbhajan, Tahir, and Jadeja smothered Kolkata Knight Riders. This, after Deepak Chahar had carved up the top order. He, too, took pace off the ball and asked to batsmen to manufacture it.

Sunil Narine smashes spin and is less comfortable against pace, but Dhoni and Stephen Fleming aren't big fans of match-ups. More recently, Bravo revealed that Super Kings don't do team meetings. Dhoni backed Harbhajan with the new ball, and the offspinner delivered with a delightful cocktail of flight, dip, and turn.

Harbhajan lobbed one up outside off at 79kph and got it to dip, creating distance between the bat and the pitch of the ball. The turn then drew an outside edge that was snaffled at backward point.

Jadeja found bigger turn, beat Dinesh Karthik's outside edge, and then found it, but the ball dribbled away past first slip. In all, Jadeja give away only nine runs off eight balls to Karthik. So the Knight Riders captain went searching for runs elsewhere and wound up hitting Tahir across the line to short midwicket, where Harbhajan clung on to a sharp catch.

Tahir set off on a celebratory run and even whistled looking at the stands, where the fans acknowledged his wristwork as well as his footwork with tumultuous cheers.

Soon, 44 for 5 became 47 for 6 when Tahir stormed through the defences of Shubman Gill with a wrong'un. Harbhajan then returned and had Chawla stumped with old-fashioned dip and turn. In the next over, Jadeja added his name in the wickets column when he had Prasidh Krishna chipping a catch to short midwicket. Krishna was the fifth Knight Riders batsmen to be out hitting across the line.

All of this was down to the pressure exerted by the spinners from both ends. Tahir, Harbhajan and Jadeja bowled 15 dots each and finished with combined figures of 12-0-53-5. In fact, Tahir could have dismissed Andre Russell on 8 had Harbhajan not misjudged a skier at midwicket. Russell was seemingly troubled by cramps in his left hand, but he rallied to an unbeaten 50 off 44 balls to haul his side past 100.

Despite the lapse, there wasn't any such trouble for Super Kings' spin trio. If the Chepauk pitch continues to turn big and the spinners continue to expertly exploit it, Super Kings will be invincible here.