Resurgent CSK hope to upstage KKR at home
Known for their last minute scrambles, the Chennai Super Kings need to win their remaining two matches to assure themselves of a berth in the last-four and their captain Mahendra Singh Dhoni has a reputation of coming up with the best in pressure cooker situations.
On the other hand, a win for the Knight Riders would hand them the pole position and a guaranteed place in the play-offs.
Chennai`s nine-wicket thrashing of leaders Delhi Daredevils on Saturday night could not have come at a better time, as the Knight Riders were given a wake-up call by a Rohit Sharma-inspired Mumbai Indians in the afternoon match of the same day.
After their humiliating 27-run loss at home, the Knight Riders would find themselves down while the Super Kings would look to avenge their five-wicket defeat in the first leg of the tournament.
It was a ruthless performance by the Super Kings on Saturday night as they did not allow the leaders to fight back right from the beginning when Australian quick Ben Hilfenhaus castled Virender Sehwag in the opening over.
For Hilfenhaus, it was his second Man-of-the-Match performance in succession and the pacer, who was the wrecker-in-chief with 27 wickets in Australia`s 4-0 rout of India in a recent Test series, would look to cast a spell on the likes of Gautam Gambhir and Jacques Kallis.
It was not only Hilfenhuas but South African Albie Morkel was also at his best with impressive figures of 4-0-15-1 to restrict Delhi for 114 for five, a total that allowed the failing Chennai Super Kings batters to click for a win with 28 balls to spare.
The best thing to have happened for the Super Kings was Murali Vijay regaining his touch. With 134 runs from his previous nine games, the pressure was on Vijay to reproduce his old form and the right-hander did just that, shepherding the chase with 48 not out from 40 balls (5×4, 1×6).
Woefully out of form, left-handed Suresh Raina too seemed to have found his touch with 20-ball 28 not out, laced with two sixes and one four.
Super Kings would hope that skipper Dhoni comes to his own as he is going through a poor run this season with 235 runs from 12 innings. The more alarming stat is that he has only four sixes this season, compared to 59 in his IPL career.
An interesting battle would be on the cards when Dhoni takes on Sunil Narine to unravel his mystery spin as the Knight Riders would hope that their bowling after the Saturday evening`s slip up bounce back and restrict the Chennai batsmen on the tailor-made slow Eden track.
For a team that had been among the most consistent in this IPL, Knight Riders` bowling was not at their best yesterday with a generous dose of short-pitched deliveries combined with the width that helped Mumbai duo of Rohit Sharma and Herschelle Gibbs settle down quickly.
Apart from Shakib Al Hasan (1/27) and Narine (0/28), all the other bowlers including Brett Lee (0/44) were sent to cleaners. Narine has maintained a frugal economy rate of 5.47 with 15 wickets from 10 matches while Shakib has 10 from four outings (at 6.06). It would be interesting to see whether the think-tank retains the seamers line-up of Lee, Kallis and Rajat Bhatia or brings in veteran medium pacer Laxmipathy Balaji.
As far as the batting is concerned, the over-reliance on Gautam Gambhir was exposed yesterday. The left-handed skipper, who has five fifties in his previous nine games including three MoM performances, fell for a rare duck in the opening over as the Knight Riders did not show any hunger for the 183-run chase.