Indian Premier League’s sentimental favourites Chennai Super Kings slumped to their fourth successive defeat with young Abhishek Sharma’s 50-ball-75 guiding Sunrisers Hyderabad to their maiden eight-wicket win in this edition of the tournament.
The 21-year-old Sharma took the attack to the opposition with a blistering first IPL half-century which was studded with five fours and three sixes, to help Sunrisers easily chased down the target of 155 with 14 balls to spare.
CSK now has to win at least eight out of their remaining 10 games in order to reach the magic figure of 16 points which during past few years is the cut-off for play-off qualifications.
The left-hander from Punjab, who was bought for Rs 6.5 crore by the Sunrisers in the auction, led India to victory in the U-19 Asia Cup in 2016, before being replaced as captain by Prithvi Shaw months before the 2018 U-19 World Cup.
It was Sunrisers first win of this IPL, having lost to Rajasthan Royals and Lucknow Super Giants in their earlier matches.
CSK have already lost to Kolkata Knight Riders, Lucknow Super Giants and Punjab Kings in earlier games.
On a sluggish pitch, Sharma took the pressure off his captain Kane Williamson (32 off 40 balls) who played second fiddle to the youngster who was in top form after failing to score big in the previous two matches.
Williamson was out in the 13th over off the bowling of left-arm seamer Mukesh Choudhary (1/30) after sharing 89-run opening stand with Sharma, who also fell in the 18th to Dwayne Bravo (1/29) with Sunrisers needing just 10 runs.
Rahul Tripathi (39 not out off 15 balls) then ensured that there was no hiccups in the run chase. He glanced Bravo for a boundary to finish the chase in style.
Sharma was dropped when on 62 by Ravindra Jadeja off the bowling of Bravo but by then CSK have already lost the plot. The Sunrisers needed 47 runs from six overs with nine wickets in hand.
Sharma struck Mukesh Choudhary for a six in the next over and Tripathi then joined the party with a maximum and a four off Chris Jordan in the 17th over to make it a no contest.
All the six CSK bowlers went for runs with Jordan leaking the most, 34 from his three overs and also went wicketless.
Earlier, Moeen Ali top-scored with a 35-ball 48 to guide CSK to 154 for seven after being asked to bat first.
Skipper Ravindra Jadeja (23 off 15 balls) played a little cameo towards the end to prop up CSK after they lost a few wickets in a heap.
Robin Uthappa (15) was dismissed by Washington Sundar (2/21) in the off-spinner’s very first ball, when the batter ended up skying a catch while going for a slog-sweep.
Having conceded 25 runs in the first three overs, SRH were back in the game and it got better for them with the introduction of T Natarajan (2/30) into the attack as the left-arm pacer bowled Ruturaj Gaikwad (16).
At 36 for two in 5.1 overs, CSK were in a spot of bother and they needed a partnership, and the duo of Moeen Ali and Ambati Rayudu (27) answered the call with a third-wicket stand of 62 runs.
Nearing 100 and with some more batting to come on a pitch where the ball seemed to stop, CSK were well-placed when Rayudu departed after playing a part in rebuilding the innings.
However, Williamson’s gamble to bring in Markram worked as CSK lost their fourth wicket at 108 in the 15th over.
In a soft dismissal, Natarajan accounted for Shivam Dube as the defending champions lost three wickets in quick succession.
Two overs later, even the great Mahendra Singh Dhoni (3) was walking back to the dugout, with CSK struggling at 122 for six with 15 balls left to add to their total.