Big boys in another knockout battle
Wednesday, May 28, 2014
Start time 2000 local (1430 GMT)
Chennai Super Kings and Mumbai Indians in a knockout is a familiar scenario in the IPL. However, a different narrative had tempted the tournament as recently as a week ago. MS Dhoni's men were cantering to a top-two finish until their bowling was found out, and elsewhere Yusuf Pathan rained mayhem. Rohit Sharma was leading a group of individuals that could not rally as a team, until faced with an improbable task. Sunday's heroics will be difficult to set aside and in many ways, they will benefit from turning up at Brabourne Stadium believing the first ball to be 14.5.
Dhoni is a captain who enjoys the camera. Clever jabs with commentators at the toss and a clear post-game analysis during the presentation are just as much part of his game as his brutal hits down the ground. During a three-match losing streak, his reasons flitted between fielders shelling opportunities to the new ball not being profitably utilised.
Super Kings function on belief, perhaps more so than any other team. Their batting is capable of posting any total, their captain is capable of finishing any game and their spinners are canny enough to stump any opposition. However, the form of their seamers would be a worry. They were a vital part of Super Kings' success in the UAE, but lately the number of overs they get have dwindled in accordance to their potency.
Mumbai are strong enough to exploit those weaknesses, but it depends on which Mumbai turns up. They have travelled the majority of the tournament with an underperforming batting-order. Michael Hussey, with his return to form, will be a valuable asset against his former team. Besides the obvious positive of Corey Anderson in hitting form, the most heartening outcome has been their Indian players responding to gruelling pressure. Ambati Rayudu and Aditya Tare can expect the challenge to only get steeper.
Mumbai Indians: WWWWL (completed games, most recent first)
Chennai Super Kings: WLLLW
"No, no, no, not really. Losing the first five [games] was not easy. We couldn't take that defeat," claimed a vehement Rohit after his side overcame their final hurdle in exhilarating fashion. He was speaking about Mumbai's winless run in the UAE, which included a seven-wicket loss to Super Kings. A fragile top-order and their big-hitters' indifferent form contributed to a total of 141. Rohit made a half-century, but his efforts were comfortably topped by Brendon McCullum who made 71 off 53. The chase meandered into the final overs with an off-colour Faf du Plessis searching for form, but MS Dhoni got the better of Lasith Malinga in the 18th over to quell Mumbai's hopes.
The Wankhede was brimming with emotion on Sunday and Mumbai had drawn strength from it, but earlier in the tournament Super Kings, inspired by Dhoni's final-over theatrics, broke Mumbai's 10-match winning streak at home. Ambati Rayudu's 43-ball 59 set up a target of 158. Dwayne Smith replied with a sedate 57. Amid dubious umpiring decisions and basic spills in the field, Lasith Maliga uprooted three batsmen in eight balls across two overs as the game went down to the last over. However, with Kieron Pollard bowling, Dhoni secured the requisite 11 runs with considerable flourish.
Watch out for...
The combination of R Ashwin and Ravindra Jadeja, when on song, can curb runs and thereby swindle wickets and even time out of the game. Ashwin is often asked to tackle the powerplay overs and Jadeja is not shy of bowling in the death. A fruitful association prefaces most victories. However, an off day for them provides stark reading: Ashwin's economy rate in lost matches nudges past eight and Jadeja's soars towards 10. The left-arm spinner has generally had a tough tournament aside from two four-fors.
Kieron Pollard was coming off a long injury layoff at the start of the IPL. Similarly Rohit Sharma had made starts but struggled to capitalise in the run-up to the tournament. Those cobwebs hung around both players and though there were sparks of brilliance, consistency still evades them. Their batting positions have been debated to exhaustion. After playing a minimal part on Sunday, both will be hungry.
Stats and trivia
- Super Kings seamers were bowling an average of 10.5 overs per innings in the first nine matches. Since then they average only 6.2 overs
- For bowlers who have bowled more than 50 overs this season, Harbhajan Singh's economy rate (6.45) is second only to Sunil Narine (5.91)
- This will be the first IPL knockout match held at Brabourne Stadium. It has hosted seven matches and runs are scored at 8.54 per over
"Their form is a little inconsistent. We probably would try and use that to our advantage, but no underestimating them."
Mumbai Indians captain Rohit Sharma hints at his strategies against Chennai Super Kings ahead of the Eliminator
Alagappan Muthu is a sub-editor at ESPNcricinfo