Can Chennai upstage KKR at home?
Their winning streak halted, Kolkata Knight Riders would feel the Chennai heat at home on Monday especially after the defending champions put their campaign back on track with two successive wins in the Indian Premier League in Kolkata.
Known for their last minute scrambles, the Chennai Super Kings need to win their remaining two matches to assure themselves of a berth in the last-four and their captain Mahendra Singh Dhoni has a reputation of coming up with the best in pressure cooker situations.
On the other hand, a win for the Knight Riders would hand them the pole position and a guaranteed place in the play-offs.
Chennai's nine-wicket thrashing of leaders Delhi Daredevils last night could not have come at a better time, as the Knight Riders were given a wake-up call by a Rohit Sharma-inspired Mumbai Indians in the afternoon match of the same day.
After their humiliating 27-run loss at home, the Knight Riders would find themselves down while the Super Kings would look to avenge their five-wicket defeat in the first leg of the tournament.
It was a ruthless performance by the Super Kings on Saturday night as they did not allow the leaders to fight back right from the beginning when Australian quick Ben Hilfenhaus castled Virender Sehwag in the opening over.
Vijay, Raina regain their touch
For Hilfenhaus, it was his second man-of-the-match performance in succession and the pacer would look to cast a spell on the likes of Gautam Gambhir and Jacques Kallis.
It was not only Hilfenhuas but South African Albie Morkel was also at his best with impressive figures of 4-0-15-1 to restrict Delhi for 114 for five, a total that allowed the failing Chennai Super Kings batters to click for a win with 28 balls to spare.
The best thing to have happened for the Super Kings was Murali Vijay regaining his touch. With 134 runs from his previous nine games, the pressure was on Vijay to reproduce his old form and the right-hander did just that, shepherding the chase with 48 not out from 40 balls (5x4, 1x6).
Woefully out of form, left-handed Suresh Raina too seemed to have found his touch with 20-ball 28 not out, laced with two sixes and one four.
Super Kings would hope that skipper Dhoni comes to his own as he is going through a poor run this season with 235 runs from 12 innings. The more alarming stat is that he has only four sixes this season, compared to 59 in his IPL career.
An interesting battle would be on the cards when Dhoni takes on Sunil Narine to unravel his mystery spin as the Knight Riders would hope that their bowling after the last evening's slip up bounce back and restrict the Chennai batsmen on the tailor-made slow Eden track.
Will KKR retain their seamers?
For a team that had been among the most consistent in this IPL, Knight Riders' bowling was not at their best on Saturday with a generous dose of short-pitched deliveries combined with the width that helped Mumbai duo of Rohit Sharma and Herschelle Gibbs settle down quickly.
It would be interesting to see whether the think-tank retains the seamers line-up of Lee, Kallis and Rajat Bhatia or brings in veteran medium pacer Laxmipathy Balaji.As far as the batting is concerned, the over-reliance on Gautam Gambhir was exposed on Saturday. The left-handed skipper, who has five fifties in his previous nine games including three man-of-the-match performances, fell for a rare duck in the opening over as the Knight Riders did not show any hunger for the 183-run chase.
Kolkata Knight Riders: Gautam Gambhir (c), ManvinderBisla, Jacques Kallis, Manoj Tiwary, Yusuf Pathan, DebabrataDas, Shakib Al Hasan , Laxmi Ratan Shukla, Rajat Bhatia, BrettLee, Sunil Narine, Eoin Morgan, Marchant de Lange, Ryan tenDoeschate, Chirag Jani, Iqbal Abdulla, Iresh Saxena, JaidevUnadkat, Laxmipathy Balaji, Pradeep Sangwan, Sanju Samson,Sarabjit Singh Ladda and Mohammad Shami Ahmed.
Chennai Super Kings: Mahendra Singh Dhoni (c and wk),Michael Hussey, Murali Vijay, Suresh Raina, Ravindra Jadeja,Srikkanth Anirudha, DWayne Bravo, Albie Morkel, RavichandranAshwin, Ben Hilfenhaus, Shadab Jakati, Doug Bollinger,Francois du Plessis, George Bailey, Scott Styris, SurajRandiv, Abhinav Mukund, G Vignesh, Joginder Sharma, KuthethurVasudevadas, Subramaniam Badrinath, Sudeep Tyagi, Yo Maheshand Wriddhiman Saha.