Playing his 200th game as captain for Chennai Super Kings, with his team needing a rescue act, MS Dhoni (32*) almost turned back the clock to pull off a victory with Ravindra Jadeja (25*) by his side. But it was Rajasthan Royals, and Sandeep Sharma especially, who held their nerves to register a rare win in Chennai and go top of the table on Wednesday.

As Sanju Samson put it in the end, “when you have that guy batting (Dhoni) you are never sure of the result till the last ball is bowled.”

Chasing 176, CSK were left to chase down 21 off the final over before Sandeep (1/30) successfully managed to defend it and seal a 3-run win for Rajasthan Royals on Wednesday. Dhoni hit two flat sixes and nearly got CSK over the line.

Chepauk presented a classic game for spinners as the RR spin trio of R Ashwin (2/25), Yuzvendra Chahal (2/27) and Adam Zampa (1/43) wrecked the run chase for home team CSK in the middle overs.

Earlier, Ravindra Jadeja (2/21 in 4 overs) bowled a menacing spell as Jos Buttler scored a 36-ball 52. Although not as destructive as usual, Buttler nevertheless managed to reach his 18th half-century in the IPL as Rajasthan Royals made a respectable 175 for 8 courtesy a strong 77-run second wicket partnership he shared with Devdutt Padikkal (38).

Even though the Royals were 135 for 4 after 15 overs, the next five overs didn’t go as well as they had hoped, as CSK pegged them back and ensured they conceded only 40 runs and picked up four wickets. Shimron Hetmyer continued to shine as a finisher, scoring an unbeaten 30 off 18 balls as Tushar Deshpande (2/37) only allowed eight runs to be scored in the final over.

Although 176 seemed underpar considering the start RR had got, it eventually proved to be enough for them. Just about.

Ashwin, playing at his home ground for the away side, was the player of the match.

Chasing 176 for victory, Chennai were 113-6 when Dhoni (32) joined Jadeja (25) and the pair put on an unbeaten stand of 59 but fell short of Rajasthan’s 175-8 by three runs.

Dhoni, 41, rolled back the years as he smashed Sandeep for two sixes in the final over with Chennai needing 21 to win from the last six balls. But the medium-pace bowler, who started with two wides, kept his nerve to bowl yorkers to deny Dhoni, Jadeja and Chennai a miracle as the hosts ended on 172-6.

Buttler stood out with his 52, guiding last year’s runners-up Rajasthan to a total which was just enough for the team’s third win in four matches and sent them top of the 10-team table. Buttler was helped along by Padikkal (38) and Ashwin, who started slowly but smashed two sixes in his 30-run cameo.

Rajasthan’s spinners and Sandeep then combined to restrict Chennai, with Ashwin taking an impressive 2-25 including the key wicket of Ajinkya Rahane for 31.

Leg-spinner Yuzvendra Chahal struck twice in one over, removing Chennai impact player Ambati Rayudu (one) and then New Zealand’s Devon Conway soon after the opener reached 50.

Rajasthan’s impact sub Adam Zampa, who came in for Buttler, was expensive with his leg spin but got the wicket of Moeen Ali.

Dhoni raised the noise at the MA Chidambaram Stadium with a four and six off Zampa and more big hits, but the asking rate remained too high.

Earlier Chennai’s bowlers, led by left-arm spinner Jadeja, who returned figures of 2-21, kept chipping away with wickets, but Buttler stood firm.

Rajasthan benefitted from some sloppy fielding as Chennai’s Moeen dropped two catches at slip and missed a run out.

Moeen though made some amends when he bowled Buttler with his off spin after the in-form batsman reached his fifty in 33 balls.

West Indies big-hitter Shimron Hetmyer finished unbeaten with 30 off 18 balls.

With AFP inputs

Points table after Match 17

RR 4 3 1 1.588 769/80.0 642/80.0 6
LSG 4 3 1 1.048 738/76.0 693/80.0 6
KKR 3 2 1 1.375 557/56.0 480/56.0 4
GT 3 2 1 0.431 549/57.3 547/60.0 4
CSK 4 2 2 0.225 726/78.1 719/79.2 4
PBKS 3 2 1 -0.281 493/56.0 483/53.1 4
RCB 3 1 2 -0.800 507/56.2 588/60.0 2
MI 3 1 2 -0.879 501/60.0 503/54.3 2
SRH 3 1 2 -1.502 397/57.1 473/56.0 2
DC 4 0 4 -1.576 619/80.0 728/78.1 0