The 2018 IPL playoffs are finally upon us, and first up it’s the much anticipated battle between Sunrisers Hyderabad and the Chennai Super Kings at Wankhede Stadium in Mumbai. Given both teams are playing in mutual territory with no home ground advantage; it goes without saying that we’re in for a pretty evenly-contested game. The winner of tomorrow night’s qualifier will advance straight to the final, while the loser will have to face the winner of the eliminator between Kolkata and Rajasthan.
The one thing that might hurt Hyderabad heading into this match would have to be their declining-form at the back end of the tournament, they somehow managed to lose their past three games which isn’t the ideal preparation for a playoffs campaign. Apart from that minor-hiccup, the Sunrisers have been the team to beat in IPL 11 based around the sublime batting efforts of skipper Kane Williamson and their highly-flexible bowling unit which has just about been the most efficient attack in the competition this season. Opening batsman Shikhar Dhawan timed his return to form with the willow perfectly as he finished Hyderabad’s fixture strongly scoring three fifties in his last four innings at 79.66. While Dhawan and even Manish Pandey have managed to show some positive intent heading into the all-important first qualifier, Black Caps superstar-striker Kane Williamson has had a near-faultless campaign with the bat and looks to be in a permanent purple patch this season. What a year it’s been for Williamson in IPL 11, he’s surpassed 660 runs already and has just about maintained an average of 60+ for the entire tournament, and he’s striking the ball better than ever to! It will be interesting to see how the Sunrisers line-up tomorrow night, they dropped Hales in the last game for West Indian all-rounder Carlos Brathwaite who successfully claimed two wickets against Kolkata. That’s a good example of Hyderabad’s durability with the ball this season, that was Brathwaite’s first game for the tournament. Unfortunately for the Sunrisers, their bowling unit has been a bit wayward in their past handful of games which is rotten luck considering they’ve been a massive tick so far. Only Siddarth Kaul has shown any sign of consistently bringing wickets to the table in recent times, they really need their star leg-spinner Rashid Khan along with seamers Bhuvneshwar Kumar and Sandeep Sharma to lift for the big occasion tomorrow night against a quality outfit in Chennai.
This is what the Chennai Super Kings have been waiting for all year, they always had the talent at their disposal to get them into this position, it just remains to be seen if they can continue to blow their opposition out of the park in a fiery-playoffs campaign that will undoubtedly test them as a whole. No. 3 Suresh Raina was the last piece of the puzzle to fall in place before they geared up for a lively IPL finals series, and he delivered in the nick of time with a satisfactory 61 not out in the absence of all-rounder Shane Watson against Kings XI. The Super Kings have plenty to fall back on if things go a bit pear shaped with the bat early in the innings, but their form this season would suggest that they won’t be needing their lower order anytime soon. Between Shane Watson, Ambati Rayudu, Suresh Raina and MS Dhoni, the quartet has combined for a total of 1861 runs which would be pushing 65% of the overall teams runs this season. Those are the types of numbers that outline Chennai’s strengths in the competition, teams in the IPL just simply haven’t had an answer for their top & middle order and as a result have paid the ultimate price on the scoreboard. This game reeks of a match winning knock from either captain tomorrow night, both Kane Williamson and MS Dhoni may have a completely different style of batting to one another, but they’ve just about got the coolest heads at the crease when it comes to setting up & influencing a match. South African speedster Lungi Ngidi has become Chennai’s wildcard of the tournament, he’s coming off a man of the match performance where he utterly-dominated Punjab with the ball claiming 4/10 in one of the bowling spells of the tournament. Other notable names to watch out for tomorrow night with the ball in hand include Dwayne Bravo and Ravindra Jadeja, two classy tacticians when at work.
Top 5 fantasy picks | Sunrisers Hyderabad | 1st qualifier | Mumbai
- Kane Williamson
- Rashid Khan
- Bhuvneshwar Kumar
- Manish Pandey
- Shikhar Dhawan
Wildcard pick – Yusuf Pathan
Top 5 fantasy picks | Chennai Super Kings | 1st qualifier | Mumbai
- Ambati Rayudu
- MS Dhoni
- Shane Watson
- Lungi Ngidi
- Shardul Thakur
Wildcard pick – Dwayne Bravo
Sunrisers Hyderabad (possible) – 1. Shikhar Dhawan 2. Alex Hales 3. Kane Williamson © 4. Manish Pandey 5. Yusuf Pathan 6. Shakib Al Hasan 7. Shreevats Goswami/Wriddhiman Saha (wk) 8. Rashid Khan 9. Bhuvneshwar Kumar 10. Siddarth Kaul 11. Sandeep Sharma.
Chennai Super Kings (possible) – 1. Shane Watson 2. Ambati Rayudu 3. Suresh Raina 4. Sam Billings/Faf du Plessis 5. MS Dhoni (c & wk) 6. Dwayne Bravo 7. Ravindra Jadeja 8. Harbhajan Singh/Karn Sharma 9. Deepak Chahar 10. Shardul Thakur 11. Lungi Ngidi.