Dominant Delhi a major obstacle on Chennai's path to play-offs
Having received a reprieve Thursday night at Jaipur with a slender but unconvincing four-wicket win over Rajasthan Royals, the Chennai Super Kings now face their biggest test yet when they face leaders Delhi Daredevils in an Indian Premier League (IPL) game here Saturday.
While Delhi are sitting pretty with 18 points from 12 games, the Super Kings are still precariously perched on 13 from as many outings with Royal Challengers Bangalore (13), Rajasthan (12) and Kings XI Punjab (12) entertaining realistic hopes of making the four-team play-offs.
As such, it is another high stakes game for the Super Kings who find themselves in an all too familiar position of having to win all their matches at the tail end of the league as was the case in previous seasons.
Inconsistency in their performance has cost the Super Kings dear and, with Daredevils flying high, the hosts face a herculean task to contain the mercurial visitors who boast probably the most devastating opening pair in skipper Virender Sehwag and Thursday's centurion David Warner.
In fact, the duo actually show up the absence of comparable openers in the Super Kings ranks where South African Francois du Plessis, who missed Thursday's game owing to illness, is the most consistent of the lot, but missing a solid partner at the top of the order.
Both Daredevils and Super Kings go into Saturday's game in good heart, having won their respective previous game. However, the last time the two teams met, hosts Delhi made short work of Chennai who were dismissed for 110, a target that was achieved in the 14th over.
For sure, Delhi would be looking to retain their dominance over Chennai who in turn would want to avenge the defeat and thus pick up two valuable points that will take them closer to the play-offs.
Skipper Mahendra Singh Dhoni had pointed out the ability of the Super Kings to rise when the chips are down like they did at Jaipur when recovering from 84 for six to reach the winning target of 127. The home team will need to do much better Saturday if they hope to beat Delhi whose nine-wicket win over Deccan Chargers as they chased down a target of 188 underlined their batting might.
While the Super Kings are still in the process of identifying a settled eleven and combination, the Daredevils project a settled look despite the loss of Kevin Pietersen who left for England for the forthcoming Test series against the West Indies. His replacement, Warner, has more than filled the big man's shoes while providing Delhi batting another dimension.
In sharp contrast, the Super Kings have scored only four half-centuries this season -- three of them by du Plessis and the other by Subramaniam Badrinath -- as against eight by Daredevils besides the centuries by Pietersen and Warner.
With South African fast bowler Morne Morkel in top form, Delhi also boast of an incisive attack, something that the Super Kings also have, but only on paper as their bowlers have been rather flat except on a couple of occasions.
Thus, man to man and as a team, Daredevils appear to hold all the aces while the Super Kings are under pressure to get their act together or be left out in the cold for the first time in five seasons.
Chennai Super Kings: Mahendra Singh Dhoni (Capt & wk), Srikkanth Anirudha, Ravichandran Ashwin, Subramaniam Badrinath, George Bailey, Doug Bollinger, Dwayne Bravo, Faf du Plessis, Ben Hilfenhaus, Michael Hussey, Ravindra Jadeja, Shadab Jakati, Joginder Sharma, Suraj Randiv, Nuwan Kulasekara, Yo Mahesh, Albie Morkel, Suresh Raina, Wriddhiman Saha, Scott Styris, Sudeep Tyagi, Kuthethurshri Vasudevadas, Ganapathi Vignesh, Murali Vijay.
Delhi Daredevils: Virender Sehwag (Capt), Mahela Jayawardene, Ajit Agarkar, Irfan Pathan, Umesh Yadav, Puneet Bisht, Robin Bist, Naman Ojha (wk), Shahbaz Nadeem, Venugopal Rao, Vikas Mishra, Yogesh Nagar, Zafir Patel, Sunny Gupta, Tejashwi Yadav, Aavishkar Salvi, Kuldeep Raval, Manpreet Juneja, Pawan Negi, Prashant Naik, Aaron Finch, Andre Russell, Doug Bracewell, Glenn Maxwell, Gulam Bodi, Morne Morkel, Roelf van der Merwe.