Deccan face up to Chennai's batting might
Match factsSunday, March 14
Start time 2000 (1430 GMT)
The 24th of May, 2009, was the last time Deccan Chargers celebrated a victory. After the highs of that Wanderers final, they endured the humiliation of bowing out of the Champions League Twenty20 a few months later, winless in front of their home fans, and on Friday, conceded a game they should never have lost.
The team may be missing a couple of key overseas players in Fidel Edwards and Ryan Harris, but still have enough quality on paper to produce results. Poor death bowling was an area of concern in the defeat to Kolkata Knight Riders but the more disturbing issue was the batting, losing wickets to a rash of reckless shots. A clear plan wasn't evident during the chase; it will need the captain Adam Gilchrist to set an example for the rest, since he bats right at the top.
It's all the more crucial they sort out the batting because their opponents tomorrow, Chennai Super Kings, are one of the tournament's batting powerhouses. Matthew Hayden, MS Dhoni and Suresh Raina are the team's Holy Trinity, and there's a wildcard entry for a fourth member - the Mongoose bat.
They will play their opening home game in front of a sellout crowd and the spruced up MA Chidambaram Stadium is gearing itself up for some big hits. Chennai's bowling isn't the strongest in the tournament and this could test Dhoni's captaincy skills in how effectively he shuffles them around. Though Muttiah Muralitharan isn't in the best of form, he will still be vital to Chennai's plans, even if he focuses more on keeping the runs down, instead of going for wickets.
Chennai did not practice the whole of Saturday and will make do with light training and warm-ups shortly before the game begins. They played a few warm-up matches and word has it that Dhoni has been giving the organisers a pleasant headache by regularly slamming the balls out of the ground.
Chennai will be without at least three overseas players for tomorrow's game - Michael Hussey, Makhaya Ntini and George Bailey. Ntini, who played the Pro20 final for the Warriors against Lions on Friday, will not arrive in time for the game. Bailey will also arrive in due course from New Zealand, where he joined the Australian squad for the ODI series which just finished. Justin Kemp, one of the newcomers to the IPL, had a lengthy session at the nets and took some time adjusting to the bounce and most of all the humidity.
VB Chandrasekar, the team's director of cricketing operations, noted in his blog that Kemp had a "harrowing time" facing Murali, losing his stump a few times. Bathed in sweat, Hayden teased the South African allrounder about his "dip in the pool."
Deccan, having arrived on the eve of the game, will take a call on their final XI only later.
The teams finished even with a win each in 2008, both by seven wickets. In fact, Chennai were beaten quite easily the last time they met at the MA Chidambaram Stadium. In South Africa, Deccan won the first encounter by six wickets but in the return match, crashed to 100 and lost by 78 runs. The match was remembered for Shadab Jakati's four wickets and Dwayne Smith's blinding 49.
In the spotlight
Mongoose: It resembles a rowing paddle, but don't be deceived by its appearance. The revolutionary bat, with a much longer and flexible handle, is designed to increase power by 20% and bat speed by 15% than conventional bats. Its brand ambassador, Matthew Hayden, is all set to unveil it this IPL, so don't snooze in your seats. Hayden's biffing itself is a sight to behold and this bat promises to offer even more.
Hayden's opening partner: Parthiv Patel did decently in 2008, scoring 302 runs at 27.45 but his stocks dipped the following year, scoring only 142 runs at 15.77. He has mostly played a supporting role to Hayden, but if Chennai want to force a change, they could bring in M Vijay, who now has a handful of Test appearances under his belt.
Vaas v Chennai top order: The experienced Sri Lankan inaugurated the tournament with a double-wicket maiden, including a first-baller. If he could repeat that against Hayden and Co, the Chennai crowd will be silenced.
- Suresh Raina has a total of 855 IPL runs in 30 games.
- Chennai will look to improve their home record, having lost four and won three.
- Andrew Symonds needs another 44 for 1000 domestic Twenty20 runs.
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Kanishkaa Balachandran is a sub-editor at Cricinfo