Published On: Sat, May 26th, 2018

CSK 3, Sunrisers 0. IPL final?

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The head offices of India Cements and Sun TV are located 300m from each other, either side of Greenways Road in South Chennai. Roughly four-and-a-half kilometers from Greenways Road is Boat Club Road, which houses some of the city’s most expensive real estate, including the residences of N Srinivasan, the India Cements managing director, and Kalanithi Maran, the chairman of Sun TV.

On Sunday, their teams, Chennai Super Kings and Sunrisers Hyderabad, will contest the IPL final in Mumbai. Regardless of who wins, the trophy will find its way to Chennai – a typically IPL end to a season of 60 matches of which only one was played in Chennai.

It will also represent a closing of the circle for CSK and, by extension, the IPL itself. After two years out of the tournament – for serious breaches that, in the words of Justice RM Lodha, brought disrepute to cricket – the IPL’s most consistent team isn’t just back but back where it always was.

This isn’t just CSK’s seventh final in nine seasons; it’s a final that will feature a whole host of familiar CSK faces. MS Dhoni and Suresh Raina have appeared in all six of their finals so far, Dwayne Bravo in four, and Ravindra Jadeja in three. They have, however, tasted plenty of defeat: CSK have only won two of their six finals so far.

Standing between them and a third title are formidable opponents hunting for a second title. Sunrisers may have lost all three of their meetings with CSK this season, but two were desperately close finishes that could easily have gone the other way. Their attack hasn’t quite been the remorseless machine it was earlier in the season, but they remain the best bowling side in the competition, with the best economy rate of all eight teams in the Powerplay (7.83), the middle overs (7.41) and at the death (8.88). They also have the tournament’s leading run-getter in Kane Williamson.

CSK, meanwhile, have found batting heroes for every situation, with four of their batsmen – Ambati Rayudu (586), Dhoni (455), Shane Watson (438) and Raina (413) passing the 400-run mark for the season. Their bowling, which looked thin at the start of the season, has fallen into place over recent matches, with Lungi Ngidi and Deepak Chahar looking particularly potent with the new ball.

Of all the match-winners on either side, however, one man could have a disproportionate influence on the game, an effect not seen since Sunil Narine‘s peak years as a T20 bowler. Most sides are content with seeing off Rashid Khan and limiting the damage he can inflict across 24 balls, and CSK know fully well what he’s capable of, after he came close to derailing a chase of 140 when they last ran into him on Tuesday.

He finished that match with ridiculous figures of 2 for 11 from four overs, and followed it up with an even more ridiculous performance, with ball, bat and in the field, to single-handedly drag Sunrisers into the final.

CSK and Rashid will meet again on Sunday, at the same venue where they met last. Who will have the final say?

Previous meetings

The two teams have met three times this season, with CSK winning each time: by four runs in a last-ball finish in Hyderabad, by eight wickets courtesy an Ambati Rayudu ton in Pune and by two wickets in an enthralling finish engineered by Faf du Plessis in the first Qualifier in Mumbai.

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From Warner’s exclusion to Rashid Khan’s all-round performance, check out how did SRH enter the finals

Likely XIs

Chennai Super Kings: 1 Shane Watson, 2 Faf du Plessis, 3 Suresh Raina, 4 Ambati Rayudu, 5 MS Dhoni (capt & wk), 6 Dwayne Bravo, 7 Ravindra Jadeja, 8 Deepak Chahar, 9 Harbhajan Singh/Karn Sharma, 10 Shardul Thakur, 11 Lungi Ngidi

Sunrisers Hyderabad: 1 Wriddhiman Saha (wk), 2 Shikhar Dhawan, 3 Kane Williamson (capt), 4 Shakib Al Hasan, 5 Deepak Hooda, 6 Yusuf Pathan, 7 Carlos Brathwaite, 8 Rashid Khan, 9 Bhuvneshwar Kumar, 10 Siddarth Kaul, 11 Sandeep Sharma/Khaleel Ahmed/Basil Thampi

Strategy punt

One of the reasons behind CSK beating Sunrisers three times this season is how two of their key batsmen have handled Rashid. Between them, Rayudu and Raina have scored 62 off 34 balls against the legspinner, without being dismissed. It is likely, therefore, that CSK will continue to bat Rayudu in the middle order – probably at No. 4 below Raina – rather than at the top, to counter Rashid through the middle overs.

If that is the case, and if the situation allows for it, Sunrisers could hold back an over each of Rashid and Shakib Al Hasan to match up against Dhoni and Bravo. Dhoni has scored a combined 24 off 33 balls against them in T20 cricket while being dismissed once, while Bravo has made 28 off 34 while falling three times each to Rashid and Shakib. It’s one possible way for Sunrisers to limit what has been a massive strength for CSK this season, their slog-overs hitting. Their last-five-overs run rate of 11.73 is the best of all teams this season.

Stats that matter

  • This is the sixth time in 11 IPL seasons that the teams finishing in the top two spots on the league table are meeting in the final. The team finishing second won the first four such meetings (2011, 2013, 2014 and 2015) and the team topping the table won the 2017 final.

  • CSK have lost their last three finals – 2012, 2013 and 2015 – and haven’t won the IPL since picking up back-to-back titles in 2010 and 2011.

  • This is the sixth time two teams have faced off four times in a single IPL season. The mini-contest ended 3-1 on all five previous occasions.

  • Sunrisers will look to emulate Mumbai Indians’ 2017 feat of losing three times to the same opponent (Rising Pune Supergiant) before beating them in the final.

  • Harbhajan Singh, Rayudu (both CSK) and Yusuf Pathan (Sunrisers) are in line to win their fourth IPL title. Only Rohit Sharma (Deccan Chargers in 2009 and Mumbai Indians in 2013, 2015 and 2017) has won four titles so far.

  • Only once before has the Orange Cap holder (Robin Uthappa in 2014) won the IPL title that season. Can Williamson emulate him?

Fantasy pick

  • In the first Qualifier, Bhuvneshwar Kumar was a constant menace with the new ball, enjoying the bounce of the Wankhede Stadium pitch and the swing under lights while – unlike his seam-bowling colleagues – giving the batsmen nothing to drive. Given the conditions, his experience, and his exploits in previous IPL finals – he defended 11 runs in the last over in 2016 – Bhuvneshwar could be a key player on Sunday.

  • Raina has an exceptional record in IPL finals: 209 runs in six innings at an average of 41.80 and a strike rate of 163.28. He is also close to a big landmark – he needs 47 to become the first player to 5000 IPL runs.

  • Jadeja didn’t have a great start to IPL 2018, but he has rediscovered his T20 bowling mojo as the season has progressed. He picked up only three wickets in his first nine matches at 51.3 while conceding 8.6 runs per over. In his last six matches, he has picked up seven wickets at 17.9 while only giving away 6.0 runs per over.

  • Staying with left-arm-spin-bowling allrounders, it isn’t a bad time to pick Shakib, who is having his most successful IPL season with the ball, having taken 14 wickets – two more than his 2012 tally with Kolkata Knight Riders. He has been superb in Sunrisers’ wins, averaging 19.6 and conceding only 6.9 runs per over, and his poor performances have coincided with their losses, in which he has only taken one wicket at 186.0 and given away 9.8 runs per over. If your instincts tell you Sunrisers will lift the trophy, pick Shakib in your team.

Fantasy pick

“I think we can all recall the last game we played. We could have won that game by 20 runs or lost it as we did. It was a remarkable comeback from CSK. I guess we got 90% of that game right and you’ve got to give credit where it’s due. I’m not looking at areas that we need to tighten up.”
Coach Tom Moody believes Sunrisers didn’t do much wrong in the last clash against CSK.



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