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IPL 2018: Battle of the top guns

THE ASIAN AGE. | AMEYA TILAK
Published : May 22, 2018, 1:37 am IST
Updated : May 22, 2018, 1:35 am IST

Chennai take on Sunrisers in Qualifier 1

M.S. Dhoni plays with his daughter Ziva as CSK team mates Deepak Chahar (left) and Lungi Ngidi look on. (Photo:  BCCI)
 M.S. Dhoni plays with his daughter Ziva as CSK team mates Deepak Chahar (left) and Lungi Ngidi look on. (Photo: BCCI)

Mumbai: Winners stay put in Mumbai; losers go to Kolkata with the hope of coming back to Mumbai. It’s play-off time in IPL-11 as Chennai Super Kings face Sunrisers Hyderabad in Qualifier 1 at the Wankhede Stadium here on Tuesday.

SRH and CSK were the top two teams in the league and it grants them two shots to make it to the final. While the winners of Qualifier 1 get a direct entry into the final, the losers will get a chance to square off against the winners from the Eliminator — either Kolkata Knight Riders or Rajasthan Royals — in Qualifier 2 and reach the May 27 final here.

Kane Williamson’s solid batting form (661 runs from 14 games) and leadership skills have pretty much negated the void left by David Warner’s absence at SRH. The New Zealander, the second highest run-getter in the league stage, must be glad that his opener Shikhar Dhawan has hit form by scoring three fifties in the last five games.

However, Williamson will be worried about SRH’s middle-order — an area M.S. Dhoni’s CSK would like to target. The likes of Manish Pandey (276 runs from 14 games), Shakib al Hasan (176 runs from 14 games) and Yusuf Pathan (188 from 12 games) have been far from productive or consistent.

The way Williamson has handled his bowlers sets Sunrisers apart from all the other teams this year. That Hyderabad defended scores of 118, 132, 146 and 151, sometimes in the absence of their bowling lynchpin Bhuvneshwar Kumar, is testimony to the Kiwi’s astute leadership. While medium-pacer Siddarth Kaul has 17 wickets from 14 games, the spinners — Rashid Khan and Shakib — have scalped 16 and 13 wickets respectively.

However, SRH must improve their game to avoid a hat-trick of defeats against CSK in IPL 2018. If SRH have been the best defenders of IPL 2018, CSK, who made a comeback to IPL after two years, have been the best chasers in this edition. Out of their nine wins, six have come while chasing. The troika of Ambati Rayudu (586 runs), Dhoni (446 runs) and Shane Watson (438 runs) have led CSK’s charge with the bat with timely contributions from Suresh Raina, Sam Billings and Dwayne Bravo. While Dhoni has managed to turn back the clock with big-hitting and chasing master classes, Rayudu has been a revelation; so much so that he has earned a recall to India’s ODI squad after two years.

CSK’s major concern is their death bowling as Bravo has been struggling to deliver the goods. However, CSK’s bowling at the top has been their biggest positive, with young Deepak Chahar (9 wickets from 10 games) and Shardul Thakur (14 wickets from 11 games) being impressive. Lungi Ngidi’s superb show (4/10) against KXIP in the final league match will provide CSK a boost. Although CSK’s spinners aren’t in the class of SRH’s, they do have it in them to rise to the occasion.

Tags: chennai super kings, ipl 2018