Chennai Super Kings enter the final lap of the ongoing Indian Premier League’s preliminary phase, looking to beat back the challenge of a resurgent Delhi Capitals on Wednesday and get closer to a play-offs berth.
CSK returned to winning ways with a convincing victory over Mumbai Indians — a bogey team at their fortress Chepauk — and would be hoping to pick up two more points against the Capitals, who have struggled in the tournament for the most part.
The Super Kings trumped MI in a low-scoring game last Saturday with the bowlers, Matheesha Pathirana in particular, doing a good job to restrict the opposition. The chase was wrapped up without much ado, with contributions from Ruturaj Gaikwad, Devon Conway and Shivam Dube.
While the top-order batters (Conway 457 runs, Gaikwad 292 runs and Ajinkya Rahane (245 runs) have been doing a great job, the middle-order hasn’t fired as much as the think-tank would have hoped for.
The experienced Ambati Rayudu (95 runs in 11 games) and Ravindra Jadeja (92 in 11 games) haven’t got going, making for a floundering middle-order. Skipper M S Dhoni has managed the cameos expected of him whenever he has got in.
The team will be hoping that the middle-order is not put to test in a crunch game. Dhoni and the CSK fans will be praying for the likes of Rayudu, Moeen Ali and Jadeja to rise to the occasion when it matters the most.
The big-hitting Shivam Dube has so far collected 290 runs (from 9 innings) and will be eyeing bigger contributions in key games.
Tushar Deshpande with 19 wickets so far has done a fine job but his economy rate of 10.33 and giving away runs at crucial junctures has hurt CSK at times. The captain would like him to be more thrifty with the ball.
Jadeja, as always, has struck crucial blows while slinger Pathirana will be keen to continue the good run, like against MI.
Pathirana will be one bowler the Capitals, including the aggressive Phil Salt, who shone in the team’s last game, would be wary of.
The DC batters have under-performed but Salt has expressed confidence that they can turn it around in the remaining games.
Skipper David Warner has not been his usual ebullient self and the batting line-up which includes Mitchell Marsh and Rovman Powell among others has flattered to deceive. As the season winds down, DC managed to keep their chances alive by winning four of their last five matches.
Whether the team can sneak into the top four remains to be seen. They will need to perform very well if they aim to surprise CSK in their den, which is easier said than done.
For that, the DC batters need to come to grips with the spin challenge expected to be posed by CSK and the bowling department needs to find ways to contain the methodical Conway and Gaikwad first before dealing with the others.
Veteran Ishant Sharma, who seems to have rediscovered his mojo, would be one to watch out for apart from pacer Anrich Nortje, Marsh and the slow bowlers — Kuldeep Yadav and Axar Patel.
Chennai Super Kings: MS Dhoni (capt/wk), Akash Singh, Moeen Ali, Bhagath Varma, Deepak Chahar, Devon Conway, Tushar Deshpande, Shivam Dube, Ruturaj Gaikwad, Rajvardhan Hangargekar, Ravindra Jadeja, Sisanda Magala, Ajay Mandal, Matheesha Pathirana, Dwaine Pretorius, Ajinkya Rahane, Shaik Rasheed, Ambati Rayudu, Mitchell Santner, Subhranshu Senapati, Simarjeet Singh, Nishant Sindhu, Prashant Solanki, Ben Stokes, Maheesh Theekshana.
Delhi Capitals: David Warner (capt), Prithvi Shaw, Mitchell Marsh, Sarfaraz Khan, Aman Hakim Khan, Abhishek Porel (wk), Axar Patel, Khaleel Ahmed, Kuldeep Yadav, Rovman Powell, Rilee Rossouw, Anrich Nortje, Mustafizur Rahaman, Chetan Sakariya, Mukesh Kumar, Phil Salt, Lungi Ngidi, Praveen Dubey, Lalit Yadav, Ripal Patel, Vicky Ostwal, Ishant Sharma, Manish Pandey, Kamlesh Nagarkoti, Yash Dhull.