Having gained a fresh lease of life with a stunning five-wicket win over Royal Challengers Bangalore, Chennai Super Kings will be looking to consolidate their position with another success when they host Rajasthan Royals at Chepauk on Saturday.
The win over Bangalore on Wednesday came following four consecutive defeats and the Super Kings, until then tethering on the edge of a precipice, resurrected their campaign in splendid fashion, successfully chasing a target of 162.
The overall performance, as also the arrival of two Aussie stars, middle-order batsman Mike Hussey and fast bowler Doug Bollinger late on Thursday night, has injected the much-needed enthusiasm and hope in the Super Kings team that went into the second-half of the competition more as party-spoilers than potential champions.
Now that the Super Kings, on six points, have re-discovered their winning touch, the Rajasthan Royals, coming after an embarrassing defeat against the Delhi Daredevils, have their task cut out.
For the Super Kings, the best news has been opener Murali Vijay’s form that has nearly overshadowed his partner Matthew Hayden, the acknowledged backbone of the team’s batting but inconsistent this season.
With Vijay batting well — his match-winning 78 against RCB was complemented by the dependable Suresh Raina, the Super Kings, with the expected inclusion of Hussey and Bollinger, appear better placed and the stronger team.
Of course, whether Bollinger and Hussey would play at all on Saturday depends on how quickly they recover from their long flight from New Zealand where both influenced Australia’s 2-0 Test series victory.
With Hayden and off-spinner Muttiah Muralitharan certainties, there will be only two vacancies for foreign players. Thus, skipper MS Dhoni will have a tricky task of picking two from among Bollinger, Hussey, and all-rounder’s Albie Morkel and Thilan Thushara.
If the team management decides to play it safe, then the Super Kings might go in with an unchanged combination with a possible exception of seamer Lakshmipathy Balaji replacing the ineffective Manpreet Gony.
On the other hand, Shane Warne’s Rajasthan Royals, with eight points from as many outings, would be looking to get back into the flow that had seen them win consecutive matches after having lost their opening games.
Much of Rajasthan’s batting has revolved around the big-hitting Yusuf Pathan though in the recent games, the likes of openers Michael Lumb and Naman Ojha have also fired. But essentially, it has been Pathan who has single-handedly won a couple of matches for the Royals and on Saturday he will yet again be the key factor.
The Royals bowling has been restrictive at best and occasionally sharp, thanks to Shaun Tait, but mostly Warne’s infectious intensity and passion besides exemplary leadership have been critical factors. Warne’s hands would be considerably strengthened with Aussie all-rounder Shane Watson joining the side last night.
Last weekend, the Royals managed to beat the Super Kings by 17 runs in a touch-and-go game at Ahmedabad after scoring 177 and on Saturday, given the bouncy Chepauk pitch, it points to a high-scoring game. (IANS)