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The Preview by Siddhartha Talya
May 18, 2009
Series/Tournaments: Indian Premier League
May 18, 2009
Start time 16.30 (14.30 GMT, 20.00 IST)
As the race for a place in the semi-finals intensifies, the entertainment value of the last few games has shot up drastically, with the audience treated to a series of last-over thrillers. Teams that began shakily have now emerged serious contenders while some that were resting easy at the top have been made to regret their slip-ups. But amid the unpredictability, there have been constants.
Kolkata Knight Riders have had a horrendous tournament and have been out of the running for some time but now they've even squandered the opportunity to determine who makes it to the top four, throwing away hard-won advantages to concede improbable victories. On the other hand, Chennai Super Kings have been highly consistent and now have their best chance of ending any mathematical possibility of not finishing in the 'safe zone'.
Chennai are currently placed second and will confirm their qualification for the semi-finals if they beat Kolkata. If they lose though, they'll face the frustrating prospect of having to rely on the outcome of their final league game against Kings XI Punjab, and possibly net run-rate to see where they finish. Kolkata have another chance to dent some hopes, but their torrid run combined with a recent tendency to be excessively generous to their opponents at the death means Chennai will have few fears.
Form guide (completed matches, most recent first)
Chennai - WLWWW
Chennai's march in the competition was boosted by a run of five-successive wins, ended by Royal Challengers Bangalore in Durban. However, a win over Mumbai Indians in their previous game made up for the blip, taking them to the brink of qualification. Their opening combination has been a worry. Matthew Hayden has been prolific, but has lacked support from the other end. The first-wicket has averaged 21.7 in the last six games, as M Vijay, Parthiv Patel and S Badrinath have struggled to bat long enough. Suresh Raina is Chennai's second-highest run getter but has managed one half-century in 11 games and 48 runs in his last three. Hayden's too far ahead to catch up, but Raina ought to make a greater impact at No.3. Their bowlers have proved reliable throughout, successfully defending targets in four of their last six games, and giving Bangalore a serious scare despite their batsmen posting just 129.
Kolkata - LLLLL
Of their last seven losses, four have been decided in the final over and the last two have been the most agonizing. Kolkata showed signs of revival, with their batsmen, especially the foreign recruits, stepping up. Brad Hodge, Morne van Wyk and David Hussey have each justified their induction and even their captain, Brendon McCullum, shrugged off his poor form, carting 84 against Bangalore in Centurion. But it was their fast bowlers who let them down badly after the spinners had put them in strong positions. Ajit Agarkar and Ishant Sharma fed Ross Taylor full tosses and he punished them to snatch an unlikely win for Bangalore. Bangladeshi fans desperately waiting for Mashrafe Mortaza's appearance were in for a nightmare. Their star player was unable to prevent Deccan Chargers from knocking off 21 required for a win in the final over and earned the dubious distinction of bowling the most expensive spell in the IPL this year.
Watch out for
MS Dhoni - His leadership has been impressive, and so has his batting. Dhoni has moved himself around considerably in the middle order, and backed up his two half-centuries with some cameos, proving effective at the death. With Hayden dominating the top order, Dhoni has been the stand-out player in the middle. He's been involved in four 50-plus partnerships in the last seven games, two each with Hayden and Raina, batting out till the end of the innings to string a favourable result each time.
David Hussey - Kolkata missed him for much of the IPL, but Hussey made an immediate impact upon his return from the UAE, providing the innings a major boost with two quickfire 40-plus contributions. He helped Kolkata almost double their score after the 15th over, clattering a 17-ball 43 against Deccan, and must ideally play a greater role with his offspinners, especially when the pace attack has proved his team's undoing.
Parthiv Patel opened for Chennai against Mumbai after sitting out for five matches, but suffered a first-ball duck. He could, yet again, make way for M Vijay, though Chennai may still give him another go. Jacob Oram has made just one significant contribution with the bat this IPL, and his average of 15.50 is disappointing. In eight matches, he's only bowled two full spells, and if his team wishes to strengthen its batting, George Bailey could be drafted in.
Chennai Super Kings: 1 Parthiv Patel/M Vijay, 2 Matthew Hayden, 3 Suresh Raina, 4 MS Dhoni, 5 S Badrinath, 6 Jacob Oram/George Bailey, 7 Albie Morkel, 8 Sudeep Tyagi, 9 Shadab Jakati, 10 Muttiah Muralitharan, 11 L Balaji.
Kolkata's predominant concern in their previous couple of games has been their bowling. Agarkar has been their most expensive bowler - among those who've played five or more games - conceding 9.73-an-over, and Kolkata may look to bring in Ashok Dinda in his place. Mortaza's hammering at the hands of Rohit Sharma, much to the disappointment of those who so eagerly awaited his IPL debut, could cost him his place, and the team may want to induct Charl Langeveldt, whose inclusion in the XI is long overdue.
Kolkata Knight Riders: 1 Brendon McCullum, 2 Sourav Ganguly, 3 Brad Hodge, 4 David Hussey, 5 Wriddhiman Saha, 6 Yashpal Singh, 7 Charl Langeveldt/Mashrafe Mortaza, 8 Murali Kartik, 9 Ajit Agarkar/Ashok Dinda, 10 Ishant Sharma, 11 Shoaib Shaikh.
Stats and Trivia
The previous game between the two teams was washed out in Cape Town. Chennai emerged victors in both contests last year, with Hayden and Dhoni combining to complete a nine-wicket win in the first. In the second, Makhaya Ntini took 4 for 21, including a hat-trick, and the Chennai openers did well enough before rain intervened to win the match by the D/L method.
Siddhartha Talya is an editorial assistant at CricinfoFeeds: Siddhartha Talya
© ESPN Sports Media Ltd.
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