CSK, SRH face battle to overcome inner demons

When and where is IPL final 2018?

Wankhede Stadium, Mumbai
May 27, Sunday; 19:00 IST (13:30 GMT)
Live on Star Sports 1, HD 1, Hindi 1, Hindi 1 HD, Select 1, Select 1 HD, Tamil

The big picture

Just how do you separate Chennai Super Kings (CSK) and Sunrisers Hyderabad (SRH)? Both teams have scraped through to the IPL 2018 final, their strengths and weaknesses have not always been clear-cut, and neither of them will start the summit clash as a favourite.

From Sunrisers’ perspective, they will believe they can beat Super Kings on the one occasion that matters the most. They fell short in Hyderabad in the first league meeting by four runs, lost comprehensively in Pune, where Ambati Rayudu’s unbeaten 62-ball 100 helped CSK overhaul a seemingly stiff target (180), and they sent Super Kings to the final by letting slip a match (Qualifier 1) that was firmly in their grasp. Kane Williamson and co. didn’t play badly in either of those three meetings, but they did not have the rub of the green (remember the above-waist no-ball that was not called in the match in Hyderabad?) and lacked the cutting edge at other times.

Winning the Qualifier 2 and progressing to the final will have restored the confidence they lacked previously, particularly because that victory was achieved the SRH way of defending scores which the chasing teams have believed they can chase down. Manish Pandey’s inconsistency has meant Sunrisers have relied quite heavily on Shikhar Dhawan and Kane Williamson in the batting department. In Rashid Khan, however, they have a genuine match-winner who, if he bats as well as he did against Kolkata Knight Riders (KKR) on Friday, will lend the perfect balance to Sunrisers, making them the more complete team.

If Chennai Super Kings go on to lift the trophy on their return to the IPL, it will go down as one of the great sports stories! That they have reached their seventh final in nine seasons (!) is already a commendable effort, but for the existing crop of Super Kings, winning the trophy will be the real achievement.

CSK’s bowling has improved since the inclusion of Lungi Ngidi to the attack and the return of Deepak Chahar from hamstring injury. Ravindra Jadeja has taken 7/125 in the last six matches and has provided control in the middle overs. Dwayne Bravo has been unusually expensive (his economy this season is 9.83, compared to his IPL career economy rate of 8.37) and his bowling form is the worry going into the final.

CSK’s batting line-up has failed to fire collectively in two of the three matches enroute to the final, but almost every batsman starting from Shane Watson at No. 1 to MS Dhoni at No. 5 comes into the final with big runs under his belt. Therefore, unlike Sunrisers, Super Kings aren’t reliant on one or two batsmen.

IPL 2018 final: Pitch conditions and weather forecast

The Wankhede pitch is likely to be a good one for batting once again. (The low-scoring Qualifier 1 shouldn’t be a pointer for how the pitch will behave for the final.) The swing on offer because of the humidity will present a formidable challenge for the batsmen up front, while the spinners will extract turn from the surface if the dew doesn’t kick in.

The weather forecast says that the temperature at night will be 30 degree Celsius, with the humidity hovering around 70%.

IPL 2018 final: CSK vs SRH playing 11 tomorrow

CSK will field the same playing XI from Qualifier 1 in case of no fresh injuries.

Likely CSK playing XI: 1 MS Dhoni (C & WK), 2 Shane Watson, 3 Faf du Plessis, 4 Ambati Rayudu, 5 Suresh Raina, 6 Dwayne Bravo, 7 Ravindra Jadeja, 8 Deepak Chahar, 9 Harbhajan Singh, 10 Shardul Thakur, 11 Lungi Ngidi

Sunrisers gambled by handing Khaleel Ahmed his IPL debut on Friday. While his performance with the ball (0/38 in three overs) didn’t impede them from achieving a positive result, Khaleel failed to make an impression and may be replaced in the XI for the final. Deepak Hooda replacing Manish Pandey was another of Sunrisers’ big decisions on Friday and whether they persist with Hooda will be an aspect to keep an eye on.

Likely SRH playing XI: 1 Kane Williamson (C), 2 Shikhar Dhawan, 3 Wriddhiman Saha (WK), 4 Shakib Al Hasan, 5 Manish Pandey/Deepak Hooda, 6 Yusuf Pathan, 7 Carlos Brathwaite, 8 Rashid Khan, 9 Bhuvneshwar Kumar, 10 Siddarth Kaul, 11 Basil Thampi

IPL 2018 final prediction

While CSK are trying to avoid finishing as the finalist for the fourth time in a row (they have lost their last three IPL finals in succession, 2012, 2013 and 2015), Sunrisers face the challenge of overcoming Super Kings, having finished on the wrong side of the result on the three previous occasions this season. This battle within for these two outfits forms the biggest subplot of tomorrow’s final. 

Apart from that, Sunrisers boast a match-winner in Rashid Khan, who is capable of making a decisive contribution with the ball, in particular, against a CSK batting line-up loaded with right-hand batsmen. For Chennai, the on-field battle to win is the one between their bowlers and the Sunrisers top-order.

Your opinion...