The law of averages has probably caught up with the Chennai Super Kings who, after winning three T20 competitions back to back, face the prospect of elimination from the Nokia Champions League tournament as they take on the 2009 winners the New South Wales Blues here on Tuesday in the concluding Group A fixture.
Stranded on two points and at the bottom of the Group with a negative net run rate, defending champions Super Kings, winners of two IPL titles, have won just one game in three outings, against the Nashua Cape Cobras.
The shock defeat to Trinidad and Tobago on Sunday, chasing a modest target of 124 by 12 runs, pulled the Super Kings to the depths of despair and they require to play out of their skins against the Blues to not only pick up two valuable points but also boost the net run rate that could come into play in the event of a tie.
The situation in Group A is such that all the five teams have mathematical chance of advancing to the semifinals. At the top are Mumbai Indians with five points, followed by Blues (4), Cobras (3), T&T (2) and Super Kings (2), in that order, and thus puts a premium on the net run rate.
However, given the slow, two-paced pitch with an inconsistent bounce, it has been a test of character for the teams in negotiating the vagaries of the re-laid surface that has strongly dictated the course of the Champions League contests this year.
The Super Kings, for all their much-heralded and envied line-up that has a settled look about it, haven't performed to expectations. Ironically, their proven strength in batting has been their major let-down with none of the specialist batsmen, save opener Michael Hussey, delivering consistently.
Conversely, it has been the Super Kings bowling that has stood out with its ability to restrict the opponents to modest totals. Given the pitch conditions, the bowlers are likely to have a huge say on Tuesday, though the onus will be also on the batsmen to perform.
Mahendra Singh Dhoni, in the midst of a lean spell as a captain of both the National and club sides, has more worry lines on his forehead than the runs he has scored or the victories he has chalked up in the recent months.
Dhoni needs to rediscover his inspirational ability to lead from the front if the Super Kings hope to progress in the tournament, something he has done in the past when he single-handedly pulled the side from darkness to sunshine.
In contrast, the Blues, with two wins from three games, have displayed great character to have come thus far after suffering a defeat to the Cobras in their opening league fixture.
The Blues survived a tense Super Over against Trinidad and Tobago and then came through against Mumbai Indians after being 28 for five chasing 101. They will require all those qualities and skills against the Super Kings who, for sure, would be determined to revive their sagging fortunes.
Given the positions the teams are in, both would be under tremendous pressure on Tuesday and the prospects of another intense battle for supremacy is very much on the cards.
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