If social media is anything to go by, this contest is also cheekily termed the MRC Nagar derby. India Cements and Sun TV networks, the parent companies of Chennai Super Kings and Sunrisers Hyderabad respectively, are headquartered in the same upscale Chennai locality right opposite each other. Cheeky references aside, both teams are at a stage where they desperately need to accumulate wins; the Sunrisers only slightly better off, having won three out of seven to the Super Kings' two.
The Sunrisers saw two points being stolen from under their nose on Sunday against the Rajasthan Royals after being in control of their defence for 16 overs. Not often do opposition teams look to take on Rashid Khan; but Rahul Tewatia did and it came off spectacularly, as the Sunrisers saw the game slip away. This has left them needing five wins in the second half of the tournament to enter the Qualifiers, not impossible by any means with their batsmen continuing to put runs on the board.
Jonny Bairstow has found form and as has David Warner. Manish Pandey announced himself with a half-century on a sluggish surface, while Kane Williamson has played the role of a finisher. Where then is the problem? Yes, the runs are coming but the Sunrisers will want to show a little more urgency upfront. Warner has made 500 runs every season for the Sunrisers and is well on his way there, but his average and strike rare so far has been the lowest for him since he joined the franchise in 2014. Can he get back to his marauding best to give his bowlers a bit more cushion?
The Super Kings continue to be heavily reliant on openers Faf du Plessis and Shane Watson. They're yet to set a target this tournament, and should they eventually be in a position where they have to, they will need that middle order to fire. MS Dhoni seems to have shaken off his rust, but the problem is the lack of experience among the young Indian batsmen, a variety they've never invested in unlike other teams.
Which is why Ruturaj Gaikwad played his first game in nearly two years and N Jagadeesan finally debuted in the IPL against the Royal Challengers Bangalore after a long wait since 2018. Without Suresh Raina and with a patchy Ambati Rayudu struggling for momentum, the batting simply wears too thin. So no matter how well the bowlers deliver, the batting may still struggle. The situation is so dire that Dhoni shook off his template of backing under-fire players by leaving out Kedar Jadhav and handing a debut to a rookie. Now, having taken the bold call, the management can only hope it pays off.
In the news
Khaleel Ahmed has blown hot-and-cold this season while Siddarth Kaul proved expensive in the only game he played. Possibly, the Sunrisers could give Basil Thampi a look-in.
With the surfaces slowing down, the Super Kings won't mind the control and zip that the veteran Imran Tahir, last season's Purple Cap holder, brings. This could mean playing two legspinners - Karn Sharma being the other - but it's not entirely outlandish. That way, however, they will have to leave out one of Dwayne Bravo and Sam Curran.
When they last met
The Sunrisers' top order wobbled, but found a way out courtesy of Priyam Garg and Abhishek Sharma, who helped put up a competitive 164. Bhuvneshwar Kumar injured himself and the Super Kings mounted a late surge with the help of Ravindra Jadeja and Dhoni, but fell seven short. T Natarajan impressed with his superb death-overs execution to help pull off a tight win for the Sunrisers.
Chennai Super Kings: 1 Shane Watson, 2 Faf du Plessis, 3 Ambati Rayudu, 4 N Jagadeesan, 5 MS Dhoni (capt), 6 Ravindra Jadeja, 7 Sam Curran, 8 Dwayne Bravo, 9 Deepak Chahar, 10 Shardul Thakur 11 Karn Sharma
Sunrisers Hyderabad: 1 David Warner (capt), 2 Jonny Bairstow (wk), 3 Manish Pandey, 4 Kane Williamson, 5 Priyam Garg, 6 Vijay Shankar, 7 Abhishek Sharma, 8 Rashid Khan, 9 Sandeep Sharma, 10 Khaleel Ahmed/Basil Thampi, 11 T Natarajan
One of the areas where the Super Kings have been affected a great deal is their batting slowdown in the middle overs. Their scoring rate is a poor 6.90 from overs 7-13, the second-worst in the tournament. One way of looking to correct this is to perhaps have a dasher at No. 4. Only two batsmen have struck at over 130 in this period for them. One of them is Shane Watson, who opens the innings.
Sam Curran is the other, someone the management can promote with a clear mandate. His strike rate of 227 in the first ten balls that he has faced this season is the highest for a Super Kings batsman. This move of sending in a left-hander could also challenge David Warner in how he uses left-arm spinner Abhishek Sharma and Rashid Khan, his premier legspinner. If the move pays off, it could free up the likes of Dhoni and Ravindra Jadeja, possibly leaving them with a lot lesser to chase down in the last five, should it come to that.
Stats that matter
Since 2018, no batsman has scored more against the Sunrisers than Watson. In seven innings, he has made 311 runs at a strike rate of 156. This includes a match-winning century in the IPL 2018 final. His match-up against Rashid Khan, who is Warner's trump card, should encourage the Super Kings fan. He strikes at 143 and hasn't been dismissed yet by the Afghanistan legspinner.
T Natarajan's seven wickets are the second most among uncapped bowlers this IPL. He has also bowled 29 yorkers, the most among all bowlers. It's significantly better than even the likes of Jasprit Bumrah (15) and Trent Boult (13).
Teams have often looked to play out Khan in the middle overs. This explains his economy of 4.70 - which is the best - in the middle overs among all teams. Yet, he's also managed to pick up nine wickets in this period, which is also significantly better than the second-best bowler Rahul Chahar, who has five wickets and concedes at 7.70 per over.
Warner needs 19 runs to get to the 5000-run landmark in the IPL.