CHENNAI: Mahendra Singh Dhoni sent the bowlers on a leatherhunt as Chennai Super Kings kept their unbeaten record at Chepauk intact with a comfortable 18-run victory over Delhi Daredevils in the IPL encounter on Thursday.

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Dhoni smashed his way to an unbeaten 63 off only 31 balls (5x4, 4x6) along with an equally effective Subramanium Badrinath (55) guided CSK to a formidable 176 for four in 20 overs. With no Virender Sehwag in their line-up, the target was virtually impossible for Daredevils to chase as they managed only 158 for six in 20 overs.

Irfan Pathan scored an unbeaten 46 but that was never going to be enough.

With this win CSK notched up their eighth win in the competition and stretched their unbeaten streak at home to six matches.

The match will however be remembered for the contrasting half-centuries by Dhoni and Badrinath as they added 96 runs for the fourth wicket in only 9.2 overs.

Dhoni clobbered the Daredevils bowlers racing his way to a 28-ball half century. He finished with a flourish hitting Irfan Pathan for consecutive sixes off his final two deliveries. The exhibition of clean hitting reminded one and all Dhoni of the old who had the penchant for taking on the bowlers straightaway.

On the otherhand, Badrinath (55, 43 balls, 6x4, 1x6) who is almost a certainty to board the flight to Caribbean did his reputation no harm as he played with lot of precision rotating the strike and punishing the loose deliveries.

The final two overs yielded 37 runs while CSK scored 109 runs off the last 10 overs having scored 67 from the first 10.

For Daredevils who erred by selecting five pacers on a slow track, Ajit Agarkar turned out to be the most expensive bowler leaking 49 runs from four overs while Pathan gave away 40 from his four.

Dhoni started off with a pulled boundary off Ajit Agarkar and then launched into Andrew McDonald for straight six and then helped himself with a boundary. Both Dhoni and Badrinath ran the singles and twos well as they waited for the loose balls.

When Agarkar came back for his second spell, he played an audacious pull-shot and followed it up with a deft scoop past the short fine leg.

The Indian captain moved into the 40's when patted statemate Varun Aaron's full-toss straight past the bowler.

The best stroke however remained a lofted shot off Agarkar over extra cover that brought up his second six.

With an able ally in Badrinath who was wise enough to rotate the strike, Dhoni ensured that his side put up another commendable score on a slow Chepauk track.

Put into bat, CSK suffered an early setback when Irfan removed dangerman Michael Hussey (5) in the very first over when a delivery came in a shade wrap the batsman on pads as he remained rooted to his ground.

Suresh Raina (14) started off with a four and a six off McDonald but perished trying to hook a short-pitched delivery from Jharkhand pacer Varun Aaron. Raina, whose weakness against rising delivery is well known took his eyes off the ball and the balance was not there as Irfan took an easy catch at deep fine leg.

Meanwhile Murali Vijay (35, 33 balls, 2x4, 2x6) played some nice shots including couple of huge sixes off Agarkar—one that flew into the deep mid-wicket stands while the other was over long-on.

Vijay should however be blamed for not cashing in on after being dropped twice off successive deliveries. On 22, he uppishly drove Aaron towards cover which skipper James Hopes failed to latch on to.

The first ball of the very next over from left-arm spinner Shahbaz Nadeem saw Vijay lobbing it straight to the bowler who failed to grab the chance. The batsman had scored 23 then.

He could add only 12 more before Agarkar got his revenge as Venugopal Rao held onto a smart catch inches inside the ropes.

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The Teams:
   
Chennai Super Kings: Mahendra Singh Dhoni (Captain), Murali Vijay, Suresh Raina, S Badrinath, Ravichandran Ashwin, Michael Hussey, Albie Morkel, Doug Bollinger, Nuwan Kulasekara, Scott Styris, Sudeep Tyagi.

Delhi Daredevils - James Hopes (Captain), David Warner, Naman Ojha(wk), Venugopal Rao, Aaron Finch, Irfan Pathan, Roelof van der Merwe, Ajit Agarkar, Rajesh Pawar, Morne Morkel, Yogesh Nagar.