On a day when Chennai Super Kings crawled to the lowest Powerplay score (27 for 1) and the lowest 10-over score of the season (54 for 2), Ambati Rayudu smoked 79 off 37 balls at a Smart strike rate of 288.54 - ESPNcricinfo's new metric to make sense of numbers in the shortest format - as opposed to his traditional strike rate of 213.51.
Rayudu had started the season as the opener in the absence of M Vijay, who got a knock on the ribs ahead of the tournament. He contributed 22 and 39 at the top against Mumbai Indians and Kolkata Knight Riders respectively, but a calf injury to Suresh Raina meant Rayudu had to move to the middle order to accommodate a fit-again M Vijay in the opening slot alongside Shane Watson. Rayudu scored a punchy 49 at No. 3 against Kings XI Punjab but once Raina returned, he was asked to open again. He fell cheaply against Rajasthan Royals and was then pushed into the middle order again on Sunday, this time to accommodate Faf du Plessis.
Du Plessis and Watson combined for only 20 off 28 balls, and tearaway quick Billy Stanlake contorted Raina into a pretzel with extra pace and bounce. The popular opinion was that Sam Billings or MS Dhoni could have come in at No. 4 to give the faltering innings some direction. Instead, Rayudu entered in a different batting position, and CSK found another new hero.
He was up against the best T20 bowler right now. The first ball was sharp googly that broke back in and cramped him for room. Rayudu wasn't flustered. He stretched out and slog-swept the next ball over midwicket for four, although it was off the top edge. After a dab here and a nudge there, Rayudu went to 31 off 20 balls; by then CSK were 87 for 2 in 13 overs. He lined up Stanlake and took him four fours boundaries in the next over. While two came off outside edges, and one off a crunching cut, the one that stood out was the six over long-on. He dashed down the track, held his shape, and launched it over the boundary.
Rayudu then welcomed Rashid back into the attack with a brace of sixes over midwicket. He fell to an anti-climactic mix-up, but laughed it off and walked off to a rousing reception at his home ground; Rayudu captains Hyderabad in domestic cricket.
The ball before the run out. Having watched Rayudu regularly swat the ball in the arc between deep square leg and deep midwicket, Siddarth Kaul slipped in a knuckle ball, which dipped late on off or just a shade outside. Rayudu, who had stretched out, paused and waited for the ball to arrive, before deftly reverse-padding it fine of short third man.
Rayudu hit 18 off six balls from Stanlake, and 19 off 10 balls from Rashid.
No less than 46 of his 79 runs came on the leg side.
This was Rayudu's second-highest score in the IPL
Against Sunrisers in Hyderabad, he has hit 235 runs in four innings at an average of 78.33
"Great comeback from CSK. Rayudu, in particular, he changed the momentum. I thought Hyderabad bowled well upfront, but Rayudu took responsibility for us."
CSK batting coach Michael Hussey