Kolkata v Chennai, final, IPL 2012, Chennai May 26, 2012

Acid test for tournament's best

Kolkata Knight Riders, the most consistent team so far in IPL 2012, face their toughest challenge yet against the two-time champions, who have peaked at just the right time

Advantage defending champions
In a tournament characterised by fluctuating fortunes and unpredictable results, the presence of Chennai Super Kings in the final seems to be the only constant. A week before the playoffs, Super Kings had to depend on multiple results going their way and were nearly out of the reckoning. However, an extraordinary sequence of results followed by two impeccable performances ensured that Super Kings qualified for their third consecutive final, the second in Chennai. Super Kings' batting struggled for much of the tournament but came good when it mattered most. In their two playoff matches, against Mumbai Indians and Delhi Daredevils, they amassed huge totals of 187 and 222. Super Kings, easily the most consistent team across the five seasons, have reached four finals; the only time they failed to was when they lost the semis to Royal Challengers Bangalore in 2009.

Kolkata Knight Riders had a very different path to the final. Knight Riders finished second in the league, behind Daredevils, and comfortably won their qualifier against them in Pune to reach the final.played the fewest games among teams in the top-four, finished with the best win-loss ratio of 2.20 (11 wins and five losses).

They did not dominate at home but were outstanding in away matches, winning eight of the nine games. Their average difference (difference between batting and bowling averages) and run-rate difference (difference between batting run-rate and bowling economy rate) are the best among the top four teams. In their last two games, Super Kings scored 409 runs at a run-rate of 10.22 and restricted their opponents to a scoring rate of 7.73. Their batting average in the last two games was 40.90 while that of the opposition (both games combined) was just 15. Super Kings started their season with an ordinary run in Chennai but restored their supremacy at home by winning their previous three matches and five of the last six.

Playing their first final, Knight Riders, one of only three teams to have beaten Super Kings in Chennai this season, will bank on their superb away record and all-round consistency.

Stats of top four teams in IPL 2012
Team Matches Wins/Losses (home) Wins/losses (away) W/L ratio (overall) Bat avg/bowl avg Avg diff RR/ER RR diff
Kolkata Knight Riders 16 3/4 8/1 2.20 25.97/20.92 5.05 7.57/7.01 0.56
Delhi Daredevils 18 5/4 6/3 1.57 28.13/27.17 1.85 8.24/7.94 0.30
Chennai Super Kings 18 7/3 3/4 1.42 26.94/23.81 3.13 7.94/7.59 0.35
Mumbai Indians 17 3/5 7/2 1.42 23.22/23.86 -0.64 7.43/7.65 -0.22

Super Kings' middle order a major threat
For most of the tournament, Super Kings top order was kept afloat by Faf du Plessis. With M Vijay out of touch and Suresh Raina struggling, the middle order was under pressure often. The arrival of Michael Hussey provided more stability at the top and helped Vijay rediscover the form that made him dangerous in IPL 2011. Super Kings' middle order has always had a powerful look about it with MS Dhoni, Albie Morkel and Dwayne Bravo capable of changing the course of a match in a few overs. Knight Riders' batting fortunes have revolved around Gautam Gambhir, who is the second highest run-getter in IPL 2012. The presence of Brendon McCullum and Yusuf Pathan does add to the threat. Super Kings' top-seven batsmen have scored at a slightly higher average (26.74) and run-rate (7.60) compared to their Knight Riders counterparts. While Knight Riders' batsmen average similarly against pace or spin, Super Kings have done better against spinners in terms of average. However, Knight Riders' scoring rate against spinners (6.81) is still higher than the corresponding number for Super Kings.

* Stats for all batsmen in the XI

Batting stats for the teams in IPL 2012
Team Top-seven batsmen (avg,SR) Top-seven batsmen (100/50) Against pace (avg, RR) * Against spin (avg, RR) *
Kolkata Knight Riders 25.53/7.06 0/9 25.75, 7.27 25.21, 6.81
Chennai Super Kings 26.74/7.60 1/6 26.07, 8.07 29.36, 6.55

Super Kings' remarkable batting performance in the last two games has meant their run-rate in the first six overs has gone up appreciably. Knight Riders have a slightly better run-rate (7.41) during that period but a lower average (35.60). However, on the bowling front, Knight Riders have been the better team in this period. Their average and economy rate (29.45 and 6.75) are well ahead of the figures for Super Kings (38.75 and 7.59 respectively). In the middle (overs 7-14) period, there is hardly anything to choose between the two teams. While Knight Riders have a slightly better batting average, Super Kings are marginally ahead on the scoring rate. Super Kings have a number of quick-scoring batsmen in the middle order and this is reflected in their high run-rate in the final six-over period (9.66). Knight Riders, however, are ahead when the bowling stats are compared. In the last-six overs, they have a better average (13.48) and economy rate (7.86) compared to Super Kings, who concede close to nine runs per over.

Batting and bowling stats for the finalists across the innings (avg/RR)
Team Overs (1-6) Overs (7-14) Overs (15-20)
Kolkata Knight Riders (batting) 35.60/7.41 29.60/7.04 18.25/8.56
Kolkata Knight Riders (bowling) 29.45/6.75 27.56/6.60 13.48/7.86
Chennai Super Kings (batting) 43.94/7.32 28.61/7.15 19.59/9.66
Chennai Super Kings (bowling) 38.75/7.59 27.52/6.91 14.95/8.72

Narine puts Knight Riders well ahead on spin front
Before the game against Daredevils, R Ashwin had managed only five wickets at home in the season. Defending a huge total, he was able to bring out his variations and finished with excellent figures of 3 for 23. In what is likely to be a contest between two teams with excellent spin attacks, Knight Riders have the edge because of Sunil Narine, who has not gone for more than 29 runs in a completed spell. Not only is his haul of 24 wickets in the tournament the second highest, his economy rate of 5.20 is also the best by a distance. Spinners have taken a higher proportion of wickets for Knight Riders (42 out of 92) than for Super Kings (36 out of 89). Super Kings' pace bowlers, led by Ben Hilfenhaus, have done better than Knight Riders' fast bowlers against right-handers on the wickets and average front. Knight Riders' fast bowlers have more wickets against left-handers than Super Kings' pace bowlers but have a higher average and economy rate. On the spin front, Knight Riders dominate the stats. Against right-handers, they have a far better average (17.21) and economy rate (6.14) as compared to the figures for Super Kings' spinners. The difference is larger against left-handers. Super Kings' spinners only managed seven wickets at an average of 44.71 and economy rate of 7.30, while Knight Riders' spinners have excellent figures of 14 wickets at an average of 19.64 and economy rate of 6.02.

Pace v Spin stats for the finalists (wickets, avg/ER)
Team Bowler type Right-handers Left-handers Overall
Kolkata Knight Riders Pace 35, 23.31/7.04 15, 37.00/7.89 50, 27.42/7.36
Kolkata Knight Riders Spin 28, 17.21/6.14 14, 19.64/6.02 42, 18.02/6.09
Chennai Super Kings Pace 42, 21.92/7.64 11, 34.45/7.52 53, 24.52/7.60
Chennai Super Kings Spin 29, 26.51/7.25 7, 44.71/7.30 36, 30.05/7.26

Bravo's all-round display tilts the scales
It can be argued that Daredevils' move to keep Morne Morkel, the highest wicket-taker in IPL 2012, out of the starting XI, was a huge mistake. That they did so to accommodate Andre Russell emphasises the value of an allrounder. Jacques Kallis, who has had an ordinary season with the bat by his standards, has raised his level with the ball. With the bat, he averages 22.66 at a scoring rate of 5.07 but Kallis has taken 14 wickets at an average of 26.35 and economy rate of 7.38. For Super Kings, not only has Bravo contributed vital runs in the final overs but he has also bowled economically at crucial stages. Presently, he is the second highest run-getter this season, behind du Plessis, and their highest wicket-taker.

Shakib Al Hasan has been below par as a batsman but impressive as a bowler (11 wickets at an economy rate of 6.29). Super Kings' spin-bowling allrounder Ravindra Jadeja has outperformed Shakib with the bat (191 runs at an average of 15.91) but has been more expensive with the ball (economy rate of 7.82). Albie Morkel, who has had mixed success in IPL 2012, came good when it mattered in the league game against Royal Challengers, taking 28 runs off the penultimate over to deliver Super Kings victory in a difficult chase. Yusuf has hardly matched his success in the previous seasons but performed in the qualifier against Daredevils by scoring 40 off 21 balls. He has, however, been underused with the ball in this tournament, bowling only 21 overs and taking three wickets at an ordinary average and economy rate (55.00 and 7.85 respectively).

Comparison of allrounder stats for both teams
Player Team Batting (Runs, avg/Scoring rate) Bowling (Wickets, avg/Economy Rate)
Jacques Kallis Kolkata Knight Riders 340, 22.66/5.07 14, 26.35/7.38
Shakib Al Hasan Kolkata Knight Riders 80, 13.33/5.97 11, 15.45/6.29
Yusuf Pathan Kolkata Knight Riders 193, 21.44/5.77 3, 55.00/7.85
Dwayne Bravo Chennai Super Kings 371, 46.37/7.02 14, 29.50/7.64
Albie Morkel Chennai Super Kings 107, 15.28/7.86 12, 28.91/7.62
Ravindra Jadeja Chennai Super Kings 191, 15.91/6.32 12, 22.75/7.80

Madhusudhan Ramakrishnan is a sub-editor (stats) at ESPNcricinfo