The IPL final is here and the top-2 teams from the league stages will be competing for the biggest T20 prize in world cricket. Chennai Super Kings took the direct route of getting to the finals by winning a thriller against the Sunrisers Hyderabad in the first qualifier. That result meant that the Sunrisers had to beat a spirited Kolkata Knight Riders team at home and now have another shot at beating CSK this season.
The final will be the fourth meeting between the Sunrisers Hyderabad and Chennai Super Kings this year. CSK has won all three of that encounter. Can SRH turn things around and stop CSK from winning yet another IPL title?
CHENNAI SUPER KINGS
A lot of people thought that CSK was going to have a tough time this season. Not only was their team full of aging superstars but a lot of their players were struggling for form. The team did not have the biggest names of T20 cricket and they also were forced out of their Chennai stronghold to Pune after just one match.
None of this has mattered and CSK has shown tremendous resiliency in the way it has played cricket this season. Amabati Rayadu and MS Dhoni have been the two most consistent performers for the franchise with almost every other player contributing in a match-winning fashion at least once.
Faf du Plessis, who missed most of the regular season, was picked ahead of Sam Billings in the first Qualifier and he played an unbelievable knock to help CSk escape yet another hopeless position. His return to form adds yet another source of strength to an already strong CSK lineup.
Mumbai is usually a very good batting surface and CSK knows that it has the batting to chase down any total or set one that is way beyond the reach of SRH.
Shane Watson has had a relatively quiet season this year. He scored one century and got CSK off to some quick starts but he has been more inconsistent than we are used to seeing in the IPL. He will have to be careful against Bhuvaneshwar Kumar up front but the Aussie could be a very dangerous player on the short Wankhade boundaries.
With players like Suresh Raina, Dwayne Bravo, and Ravindra Jadeja in the lineup as well, it is difficult to count out CSK from any situation.
For a while, in this IPL season, it appeared that CSK would be vulnerable because of their lack of bowling strength. In Deepak Chahar, Lungi Ngidi, and Shardul Thakur, though, the team has found a potent pace attack backed up by Ravindra Jadeja, Harbhajan Singh, and Dwayne Bravo.
These are six quality options at Dhoni’s disposal and the man knows how to make the most of resources.
Having MS Dhoni captain your side in a big final also has to be worth something on its own. Dhoni’s ability to navigate difficult situations and keep calm when everything seems to be going to pieces is invaluable.
CSK may be playing the IPL after a forced two-year hiatus but it seems like they never left.
SRH has gone from bossing games to losing four games on the trot. They also owe their victory against KKR to an unbelievable all-round performance from Rashid Khan. SRH has failed to win against CSK on three occasions this year and will be hoping that fourth time is the charm for them.
KKR brought out a few familiar weaknesses in the SRH lineup. Shikhar Dhawan does not have a set opening partner even at this late stage in the tournament, the wicketkeeper keeps changing, there is no depth in the batting after Dhawan and Williamson, Braithwaite’s death bowling is a definite weak link, and the team cannot seem to choose between Hooda and Pathan.
These are all major problems but the fact remains SRH ended the league stage with 9 wins. Same as CSk but with a better run-rate.
SRH knows how to win matches as well and has the players to help paper over these cracks. For us, the big players will be in focus. SRH has Dhawan and Williamson in the batting, Rashid Khan and Bhuvaneshwar Kumar in the bowling, and Shakib Al Hasan as the all-rounder.
The Bangladeshi all-rounder looked in very good batting form before being run-out in an unfortunate manner during the last game. He is our outside bet to have the most impact in this game. Shakib planned Dinesh Karthik’s dismissal perfectly and that could have been the turning point of the match.
If SRh can somehow substitute Carlos Braithwaite for Alex Hales then we believe it would serve them infinitely better but that does not seem to be an option that they are exploring.
The pressure on Dhawan and Williamson to score runs is also going to increase in this game. Both of them have not quite set the run-scoring charts ablaze in the last few matches and they know how much the team depends on them for runs. A flat batting wicket at the Wankhede could make it imperative for them to come good otherwise CSK will run away with it.
SRH also has the ultimate ‘X’ factor in Rashid Khan. He has shown his ability to contribute in every facet of the game but it is bowling that will be crucial to try and reign in a strong CSK batting lineup.
The team winning the toss is likely to field first
PITCH AND CONDITIONS
The conditions are going to be very important ahead of the IPL final. There is no rain predicted as of now but the humidity is expected to be high and that means we are likely to see dew in the second half of the match. Dew makes batting even easier on a good batting pitch and can make defending totals an absolute nightmare.
The pitch should offer some pace and bounce which will keep everyone interested. The small boundaries mean that no total is safe but 170-180 can be considered par.
CSK has had the wood over SRH this season. They are 3-0 against them this year alone and 4-1 in the last five matches. The matches between these two sides tend to be closely contested, however, and we must not forget that SRH came within an inch of beating them twice this year.
A better-balanced side, deeper batting depth, and a bowling that is firing make CSK the unquestioned favorites. We also recommend backing MS Dhoni and his man to lift the title this year as well. If SRH wins the toss and chose to field then perhaps punters can hedge their bets with some in-play bets as well.
Back the Chennai Super Kings to win.