Chennai Super Kings have a chance to avenge their two successive defeats to Deccan Chargers as well as knock the defending champions out of this year’s Indian Premier League when the two southern outfits clash in the second semi-final here on Thursday.
The Super Kings were defeated by the Chargers at home as well as away. At home, they lost by 31 runs while chasing a formidable target of 180 while in the return clash the defeat was by six wickets after setting a modest target of 139 for Adam Gilchrist’s men.
Super Kings would thus go into the clash hoping their batting, that has started to click only of late, would come good against the Chargers bowling attack in which left arm spinner Pragyan Ojha has been the pick of the lot with 20 wickets.
But the task of taming Chargers at the D Y Patil Stadium, one of their home venues this year, is an arduous one as the Hyderabad franchise has been on a roll leading into the semi-finals.
They are the only team, apart from league toppers Mumbai Indians, to emerge with more victories than defeats (8 to 7) in the preliminary stage of the competition.
The two wins over the Super Kings obviously gives them the edge going into the do-or-die contest but knock-out matches call for a different mindset.
As defending champions, the Chargers would be eager not to be dethroned while the Super Kings would be equally determined to make their second final in three seasons.
All pointers are there for a great contest in front of a capacity 55,000 crowd in the Navi Mumbai venue.
The indifferent form of two key players, Chargers skipper Adam Gilchrist and Super Kings opener Matthew Hayden are a cause for deep concern. Both are retired Australian greats and have not really clicked in the tournament so far.
While Gilchrist has scored only one half-century, 54 in the Chargers’ opening match, Hayden too has crossed the 50 in only one tie when he made a blistering 93 against the Delhi Daredevils at the Ferozshah Kotla in the side’s third tie.
Both have got starts since then without taking full advantage of these to play match-winning knocks and the two rival teams would be wary of their destructive powers with the bat.
That the two teams have made it to the semi-finals despite the modest returns from these two greats is an indication of the efforts put in by the others with the bat.
For the Super Kings, Suresh Raina has been the best batsman and he stood fourth in the run-getters list with 461 runs from 14 matches at a fine average of 46 and an excellent strike rate of 141.
Opener Murali Vijay, whose blistering knocks of 127 and 78 have earned him a berth in the Indian team for the upcoming World Twenty20 Championship in the West Indies as replacement for the injured Virender Sehwag, has batted very well in home conditions but has not replicated that form in away games.
But the best piece of news for the Super Kings is the return to form of skipper Mahendra Singh Dhoni who played a brilliant match-winning knock of 54 not out in his inimitable fashion against Kings XI Punjab.
While Andrew Symonds did the early good work with the bat for Chargers and has tallied 402 runs, Indians Rohit Sharma (377) and T Suman (303) have chipped in brilliantly in the later stages of the league phase.
In bowling, the Chargers look to hold the edge as the Super Kings pace attack, bolstered by the arrival of Australian left arm pacer Doug Bollinger, has not taken off as expected.
The Chennai team is struggling to put an effective support pacer to Bollinger with Alblie Morkel, L Balaji, Sudeep Tyagi and Manpreet Gony not filling in the shoe effectively.
Spinner Ravichandran Ashwin, given the responsibility of opening the bowling with the new ball, has delivered the goods with 12 wickets in 10 matches and a fine economy rate of under 7. But the Chennai bowling overall pales in comparison to the Chargers’ with even Muttiah Muralitharan not at his best.
Apart from Ojha, who emerged as the highest wicket-taker in the league phase and a decent economy rate of under 8, Chaminda Vaas, Ryan Harris, RP Singh and Harmeeet Singh have bowled effectively.
With their strength at almost equal level, both teams would be looking forward to one or two special innings or bowling spells to clinch the match and book a berth in the April 25 final.