Southern heavyweights seek turnaround
Saturday, April 16
Start time 1600 (1030 GMT)
Two traditional IPL heavyweights will face off in Chennai, a little disappointed with how things have panned out after wins in their respective opening games. Royal Challengers Bangalore will be the more confused lot. They began their season with a strong turnaround to beat Kochi but, since then, they have taken a couple of wrong turns. Their problems have stemmed from muddled thinking. Tillakaratne Dilshan and AB de Villiers - two of the most prolific batsmen in the World Cup - crawled without intent to a score of 140 against Mumbai, which later proved woefully inadequate. On Thursday, chasing 175 against Deccan, Bangalore inexplicably promoted Zaheer Khan to No. 3. Against Dale Steyn, of all people. Steyn scattered Zaheer's stumps third ball, showing up just how hare-brained the plan was. Will Bangalore have better ideas for their third match in five days, all at different venues?
Chennai's problems, on the other hand, have been on the execution front. They held their nerve and backed themselves to the hilt against Kolkata, winning from a hopeless situation, but followed it up with a shambolic show against Punjab. Catches went down, regulation saves were fumbled, too many balls were served up on and outside leg stump, and just like that, Paul Valthaty became an instant hero. Albie Morkel bowled too many full tosses, Tim Southee struggled to land his yorkers and R Ashwin's carom balls weren't on the mark. MS Dhoni likes to back his players, and will be averse to making wholesale changes after just one poor game, but Michael Hussey's arrival might force his hand. Given the nature of the Chepauk track, spin could be crucial to the outcome of the game, and despite Daniel Vettori's skills, Chennai have the upperhand on that front.
Hussey opened the innings with M Vijay for Chennai in last year's Champions League and the inherent contrast in their methods made them a successful pairing. Given Chennai's muscle in the middle order, Dhoni might want to keep Hussey at the top and push S Anirudha lower down. Doug Bollinger is also set to join the team, and might replace Morkel, while Scott Styris could be making way for Hussey.
Mayank Agarwal has looked completely out of his depth at the top, and Bangalore will consider benching him. Saurabh Tiwary and Cheteshwar Pujara are wasted at Nos. 6 and 7, and there is a case for pushing everyone up a spot, which could mean Virat Kohli opening the innings with Tillakaratne Dilshan. The bowling is a bigger worry, with Abhimanyu Mithun, S Aravind and Ryan Ninan bleeding runs in the first three games.
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In the spotlight
This is the quietest start Suresh Raina has had to an IPL season. He is the only batsman to have topped 400 runs in each season of the IPL, and will be itching to get into prime-hitting form. Daniel Vettori will know Raina's propensity to heave over cow corner, with the spin. Will he tempt him on Friday, with flight, loop and a man prowling at deep midwicket?
Suraj Randiv has had an eventful couple of games: he has seen his offbreaks slugged over the leg side, and he has had his doosras edged to third man, and at times miscued to fielders. How will his luck turn out against Bangalore?
- Thirteen centuries have been hit in the IPL. Chennai and Rajasthan have conceded most of them (three each)
- The only current Bangalore batsman with an IPL ton is AB de Villiers. That century came against Chennai in 2009, though de Villiers was playing for Delhi then
"You win some games, at the same time you lose some games. The important thing is to learn lessons from this defeat."
MS Dhoni hopes his team doesn't repeat the mistakes they made against Punjab
Nitin Sundar is a sub-editor at ESPNcricinfo© ESPN Sports Media Ltd.