Mumbai: Table-toppers Kings XI look to tame Super Kings for the third time to make it to the title clash.
There couldn’t have been more contrasting teams than Chennai Super Kings and Kings XI Punjab in this edition of the IPL.
Super Kings told us the virtue of meticulousness even in T20 through a carefully structured entry into the Play-offs. Kings XI have been a total antithesis to Super Kings’ methods. While storming into the knockout phase they played an exhilarating brand of cricket, seldom witnessed in any of the past six IPL seasons.
Now, they have come against each other the third time this year. This time in the Qualifier 2 at the Wankhede Stadium on Friday for the right to face Kolkata Knight Riders in the IPL final to be played on Sunday in Bangalore. Of course, past form counts for little in a format like T20, but Chennai might be conscious of the fact that they have not beaten Punjab this year.
In their first match at Abu Dhabi, Chennai posted a formidable 205, but Kings XI hunted down the target with seven balls to spare with Glenn Maxwell (95 off 43) and David Miller (54 off 37) producing two violent fifties. It became only worse for Chennai in their second meeting at Cuttack as Kings XI put on board the highest total of this IPL – 231 for four and once again Maxwell led the surge with a 90 off 38 balls.
However, those little setbacks apart the Chennai machine worked to perfection as it has been over the last six years and their win over Mumbai Indians offered plenty of examples of their ability to exploit even in the minute chances. Throughout this tournament, the fielding standard of Chennai has been just above average, to put it mildly.
But at the Brabourne on Wednesday, they didn’t grass a single catch and that played a massive role in them restricting Mumbai to 173. By no means, the target was easy to achieve. Dwayne Smith and Faf du Plessis milked 60 runs in the Power Plays, while Suresh Raina and David Hussey completed the job with a clinical, nerveless partnership.
That was an archetypal Chennai chase with each one of the top four contributing to a successful chase. So much the strategy has worked. Chennai’s lower-order, if it can be called so, comprising skipper MS Dhoni and Ravindra Jadeja has barely been tested or even stretched.
Compared to the Super Kings, Kings XI might appear a side depended upon one man – Maxwell. Of course, the Australian has been the stand out performer for them this season, dishing out a series of bruising knocks coming in at number three. But to call them a one-man team will be a gross injustice to the rest.
Miller has been quite efficient, often supporting Maxwell in his adventures but without sacrificing his own identity. The South African left-hander held together the Kings XI batting in the last few matches as Maxwell went through an inevitable lean patch. Maxwell has made 6, 0, 2, 14 in his last four innings, and the rumblings of an approaching thunderous knock cannot be ignored.
Manan Vohra, who was retained but not given a chance in the first nine games, has imposed himself at the totem pole position in brilliant style. Virender Sehwag has not been in his true, destructive form, but he was also not an excess baggage, while the hitting abilities of George Bailey were hardly needed.
Among all the Kings XI batsmen, Wriddhiman Saha offered the biggest surprise, playing a few important and impressive cameos, shelving his more familiar calm self.
But the big guns in Kings XI batting line-up fell silent in the first Qualifier against Knight Riders at the Eden Gardens on Wednesday, and they would take that dull outing as a timely reminder ahead of the clash against Super Kings.
So, Chennai have pedigree, they are the big game hunters, and Kings XI Punjab have finally rose from the bottom, playing some instinctive cricket.
Just don’t miss this match. A perfect storm is brewing.