On-again, off-again rain in Ahmedabad meant the IPL 2023 final, between Gujarat Titans and Chennai Super Kings, was forced into the reserve day, without even a toss happening on Sunday. So the two teams will now return to Motera on Monday. The weather is once again expected to be cloudy, with little chance of rain - ironically, that was the forecast for Sunday evening as well.
As per the playing conditions, the match has to start by 9.35pm local time for a full 20-overs-a-side to be played. The cut-off time for a five-over shootout is 12.06am. If the conditions don't allow even that, the teams will play a Super Over to determine the winner. If that is also not possible, Titans will be declared winners by virtue of having finished higher on the points table in the league stage.
At one point on Sunday when it stopped raining briefly, "the conditions," umpire Nitin Menon said, "were quite good even after three hours of rain, so we were quite hopeful that we would have a game tonight". But, unfortunately, it began raining again soon after, and around 10.55pm, the umpires decided to come back on Monday. The BCCI said in a statement that "fans who had their tickets for ... May 28 will now be able to enter the stadium with their existing physical tickets on May 29".
The final is a re-match of the opening game of the season, when Hardik Pandya's Titans took on MS Dhoni's CSK at this very ground. So, in a way, the tournament has come full circle.
Titans had won that opening game. Earlier this week, CSK levelled the score with a comprehensive win in Qualifier 1. But that match was played on a slow, spinning surface in Chennai. The pitches in Ahmedabad have been much more batter-friendly, with the ball coming onto the bat nicely.
Moreover, CSK have lost all three games they have played in Ahmedabad so far. This is the only venue in the IPL where they have played at least three games and are yet to register a win. Titans, meanwhile, have six wins in nine outings here.
Having said that, CSK will be looking to embellish their already fabulous record; they are the second-most successful team in the tournament's history. One more trophy and they will draw level with Mumbai Indians with five. On the other side, Titans will be keen to establish their dominance. They surprised everyone by emerging as champions in their debut season. They will be focused on making it two in two.
Apart from this being a battle between two sides built around the same philosophy - of keeping things simple, backing their players, and creating a relaxed team environment - there is the sub-plot of Hardik, the protégé, looking to trump Dhoni, the mentor.
Sunday's game will be Dhoni's 11th IPL final (his tenth with CSK); no player has featured in more. Hardik has been a part of five before 2023; he has never finished on the losing side. Hardik has always said he has learnt a lot, not just about cricket but also life, from Dhoni. Sunday evening will be a test of all that he has learnt over the years.
Gujarat Titans WLWWL (last five matches, most recent first) Chennai Super Kings WWLWW
Team news: No injury concerns
Coming into Qualifier 2 against Mumbai Indians, Hardik had not bowled in the previous four matches. With him having rolled his arm over against Mumbai, there are no known injury concerns in either camp.
Both teams are expected to be unchanged. One of Shubman Gill and Josh Little will be Titans' Impact Player, depending on whether they are bowling first or batting. For CSK, Shivam Dube and Matheesha Pathirana are likely to be in similar roles.
Gujarat Titans (probable XII): 1 Shubman Gill, 2 Wriddhiman Saha (wk), 3 Sai Sudharsan, 4 Hardik Pandya (capt), 5 Vijay Shankar, 6 David Miller, 7 Rashid Khan, 8 Rahul Tewatia, 9 Noor Ahmed, 10 Mohit Sharma, 11 Mohammed Shami, 12 Josh Little
Rashid Khan's T20 numbers against Ruturaj Gaikwad and Ambati Rayudu are not that impressive. Gaikwad has struck at 147.36 (84 off 57) against him, albeit while falling to him twice in six encounters. While Rayudu's strike rate is much lower (124.65), Rashid has managed to dismiss him only once in 73 deliveries.
Titans can counter Rayudu with Mohit Sharma. The seamer has dismissed him six times in 44 balls for just 54 runs. Dhoni, meanwhile, has scored 48 off 24 balls against Mohit for two dismissals.
Ravindra Jadeja bowled David Miller for 4 in Qualifier 1 but overall, Miller has an excellent record against him: 121 runs at a strike rate of 168.05 for two dismissals. Jadeja has never dismissed Gill either in T20 cricket; the batter has scored 68 off 48 against him at a strike rate of 141.66.
Ahmedabad has been a high-scoring venue this season, with an average first-innings total of 193 across eight games. Five of those games have been won by the team batting first.
Overall this IPL, teams batting first have been more successful, winning 40 games and losing 32 so far. Given it's the final, and dew is not expected to play a big role, both Titans and CSK may prefer having runs on the board.
The big question
Will Gujarat Titans win their second successive IPL title?
Yes, they have home advantage as well
No, CSK will stop them
"We have been confident when we have chased, but we have also defended some probably par and below-par total totals. Our bowling attack has, at times, played its part too. Not just this year but last year as well. So it's not just the case that if we chase then we are more competitive. We are confident that the balance we have within the group allows us the opportunity to win if we play to our potential, whether it is batting first or batting second." Titans' director of cricket Vikram Solanki
"We are realistic about how difficult it is to get to this stage. That's why we are proud of our record of being consistent over a period of time. We have been able to put performances together under pressure when we have been in form or out of form or when we have got new players. The greatest challenge of this competition is when you get a new team that's going really well and you have got to disband and you can only keep four players. The fact that we have been able to stay consistent with those rules in place is something we look back very proudly on." CSK head coach Stephen Fleming