IPL 2015 Qualifier 1 Mumbai Indians v Chennai Super Kings promises to be a fascinating contest.
Mumbai Indians (MI) played some outstanding cricket against Sunrisers Hyderabad (SRH), who let the pressure of a knockout game overwhelm them and capitulated rather clumsily with the bat.
You can take no credit away from the visitors, though, whose bowling attack stepped up to the plate and delivered the knockout punch.
Lasith Malinga and Mitchell McClenaghan bowled their hearts out, dismissing the dangerous opening duo of Shikhar Dhawan and David Warner in the first and second overs of the hosts’ innings.
Sunrisers never really recovered after that new ball assault from Mumbai and folded up for a mere 113. The defeat was never in doubt after such a poor batting performance, and the visitors, led by their opening partnership of Parthiv Patel (51) and Lendl Simmons (48), romped home to a 9-wicket victory with 37 balls to spare.
By way of their eighth win of the campaign, Rohit Sharma’s men have reached the playoffs for the sixth consecutive season and also finished second on the Indian Premier League (IPL) points table, on the basis of accruing more wins (eight compared to seven) than Royal Challengers Bangalore (RCB), who had a better net run-rate than Mumbai.
Such a victory has set it up perfectly for the men in blue and gold, as the first qualifier is to be played tomorrow at the Wankhede Stadium, where, over the years, Mumbai have been hard to beat.
They, however, have a very different proposition in front of them compared to the one they faced last Sunday, as the Chennai Super Kings (CSK) have once again had a good season thus far, possess the necessary big game temperament and, finally, look in decent fettle ahead of tomorrow’s fixture.
The question has to be: how equipped are the Indians to beating CSK, while playing on their own patch? The answer to follow…
IPL 2015 Qualifier 1 Mumbai Indians v Chennai Super Kings
At the beginning of the season, needless to say, Mumbai looked a pretty ordinary side and were rolled over easily by the likes of Kolkata Knight Riders (KKR), Kings XI Punjab (KXIP), Rajasthan Royals (RR) and Super Kings, in their first four games.
While many players in their squad were out of form to begin with, Ricky Ponting and company probably didn’t get the combination of their playing XI right, too.
They went in with three overseas batsmen – Aaron Finch, Corey Anderson and Kieron Pollard – for the first three games of the season. It meant that Malinga, the other overseas player who has been critical to MI’s success over the years, had to shoulder extra responsibility in the bowling department, and Harbhajan Singh was the only other quality bowler who could be put in the same bracket as the unorthodox Sri Lankan quickie.
Someone like Jasprit Bumrah, who did so well last season, looked clueless and his flimsy bowling performances continued to cost Mumbai. Vinay Kumar, the new recruit from KKR, is not a dangerous bowler who will strike fear in the opposition batting line-ups.
Malinga was out of bowling form too, going for plenty of runs while not picking many wickets. Mumbai’s bowling attack, therefore, struggled to take wickets (they managed to pick 5 or more wickets only once in their first four games) and stem their opponents from scoring over 160.
With their side’s bowling attack looking out of sorts, the batsmen always had that extra responsibility to either put a big total on the board, which itself wasn’t enough against Chennai when the first time these sides met this season, or chase down massive targets.
Things, though, turned around for the good once they played Sunrisers at Wankhede, where, despite setting the visitors a modest target of 158 to win the game, they produced their best bowling performance and went on to register their second win of the campaign.
Since then Mumbai have been able to produce team performances that have seen them register many a memorable victory during the second half of their campaign, winning six of their seven fixtures.
The respective batting forms of Hardik Pandya and Ambati Rayudu have been particularly pleasing to see, and this duo has added depth to the MI middle order.
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Also, the inception of McClenaghan has added more firepower to his side’s bowling attack that has improved as the season has progressed.
Going into tomorrow’s game against the Super Kings, Mumbai, man-to-man, would think that there is no major difference between themselves and their illustrious opponents.
Tomorrow’s hosts are the most in-form side compared to their opponents, and all three departments – batting, bowling and fielding – of their game are functioning very well.
Chennai are probably the most well-balanced IPL team, even better than the Knight Riders’, be it this season or in the previous seven seasons. That being said, the South Indian franchise has had a few problems with their middle order this season.
The trio of MS Dhoni, Suresh Raina and Faf du Plessis, have scored over 300 runs each, but scored those runs at only 125 runs per 100 balls, which explains why CSK have posted a total in excess of 180 only on two of the ten occasions they have batted first.
Also, Brendon McCullum, with 436 runs to his name, gave them many a good start during the league phase, and Chennai weren’t as much of a force in the games that the New Zealand skipper failed with the bat. Him joining up with the national squad that faces England in the two-Test series starting in a couple of days’ time, is a major blow to CSK, and it will be interesting to see how they cope without their swashbuckling opener.
Coming to their bowling attack, Ashish Nehra and Dwayne Bravo have taken 18 and 20 wickets, respectively, but have not really been complemented by the likes of Mohit Sharma and Ravindra Jadeja – two bowlers who could be looked at as genuine weak links. Dhoni has also persevered with Ishwar Pandey, who has pegged away indefatigably on an unresponsive wicket in Chennai. Ravichandran Ashwin has bowled to profile, picking 9 wickets from 11 matches and conceding only 5.73 runs-per-over, which is the most impressive aspect of all. Pawan Negi, since coming into the side, has bowled well, although it is worth mentioning that the left-arm orthodox spinner was taken for 25 runs in an over by Pandya and Rayudu, who helped their side win that game.
Chennai’s bowlers have gotten used to bowling on the slow wicket at the MA Chidambaram Stadium, where they have won six of their seven games and Mumbai were the only side to beat them at the so-called Lion’s Den.
While playing away from home, however, their bowling attack has been taken to the cleaners in all but a couple of games against the RCB and KXIP. Now, Dhoni is at his best when he has the luxury of using two-three spinners during an innings but, at the Wankhede, I am afraid that the conditions aren’t going to be exactly in his favor.
CSK, it is safe to say, are not a superior side to Mumbai, and will be tested in the cauldron that is the Wankhede Stadium.
Mumbai have probably surprised themselves by qualifying for the playoffs after losing their first four games. As aforementioned, once they saw off the Sunrisers at home, they managed to strike consistency in results and played well to win against the likes of the Royals, Knight Riders and Super Kings, teams that saw a dip in form after suffering defeat at the hands of Mumbai. Rohit & co. are high on confidence and there is simply no reason to suggest that they are ‘incapable’ of overcoming a Super Kings side which, over the years, has not been great when playing against Mumbai.
Expect this to be a high-scoring contest!