Form, record firmly with Super Kings
May 5, 2014
Start time 2000 (1430 GMT)
It's with a touch of irony that Chennai Super Kings find themselves on top of the table before the halfway stage, for the two-time winners and regular finalists are known to be slow starters. Super Kings moved to the top on Saturday, after the then leaders Kings XI Punjab lost their first game and slipped one place below. After they were blitzed by Kings XI in their opening game, Super Kings haven't been stretched. They have persisted with Dwayne Smith, Brendon McCullum, Faf du Plessis and Ben Hilfenhaus as their overseas players and have not felt the need to force changes.
Smith and McCullum have provided the starts at the top and set strong platforms on a couple of occasions, easing the pressure on Suresh Raina and MS Dhoni. They are yet to be bowled out and have lost seven wickets or more just once. That their lower order has hardly been tested in six games shows how dominant the batsmen have been.
One of the teams Super Kings vanquished during their winning streak was Delhi Daredevils, their opponents on Monday. Daredevils crashed to 84, chasing 178 in one of the most one-sided games so far. They were undone by brilliant catching by Super Kings and after six games find themselves second from bottom with only two wins. JP Duminy has been their most consistent player but what they need is for Kevin Pietersen to take charge with a big knock. Daredevils' bowling attack isn't the strongest so the batsmen would have to take on the extra load. Their opening game at the Kotla didn't end happily, as Rajasthan Royals chased 153 with ease. The Kotla pitch was a good one to bat on so if Daredevils have the chance to put runs on the board again, they would target a higher score.
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Players to watch
Faf du Plessis has a highest of 24 in four innings but his batting has slipped under the radar because the top order has fired. The highlight of his IPL so far has been his two breathtaking catches running backwards against Daredevils. Such fielding uplifts a side and Super Kings may persist with him for the value he adds on the field, with the hope that he will fire with the bat when the opportunity comes.
Dinesh Karthik's IPL performance for Mumbai Indians in 2013 helped him make a comeback to the Indian one-day team but his batting for his old franchise, Delhi Daredevils, hasn't been the same. After his 56 against Kolkata Knight Riders, his next highest is 21 and he had the chance to anchor the innings against Royals after Pietersen departed. He holed out in the deep for a 16-ball 12. He will look to turn the corner, now that the captaincy is off his hands.
Stats and trivia
- Super Kings have beaten Daredevils in their last five meetings
- R Ashwin conceded 41 off four overs against Kings XI, but since then he has come back well, and now has an economy rate of just 5.90 after six games
"I am not going to put a dampener by saying that it's a long way to go, but we have been in a position before when we have realised how quickly things can change."
Super Kings coach Stephen Fleming warns against complacency
Kanishkaa Balachandran is a senior sub-editor at ESPNcricinfo