The first of the Playoff matches of Pepsi IPL 2015 – Qualifier 1, the winner of which will get a direct passage to the Final – will feature the Chennai Super Kings and the Mumbai Indians.
CSK have been a consistent side over the years and have made it to the last-four stage every single season. Therefore it was no surprise when the MS Dhoni-led team became the first team to book a berth in the Playoffs this season too. Though the two-time champions finished the league stage at the top of the table, the odds will be certainly be against them – for they will be playing in the Mumbai Indians’ den, will be missing the services of their top run-getter, and need to improve their dismal away run.
The Mumbai Indians’ journey this season has been incredible, almost rising like phoenix from the ashes. Their campaign started off with four successive defeats, following which they won seven of their last eight matches to finish the league season in commanding fashion and finish second in the standings. In their most recent outing – in a do-or-die contest against Sunrisers Hyderabad – MI showcased their best performance of the season, destroying their opponents for 113 and then chased down the runs in clinical fashion winning by nine wickets with more than six overs to spare. MI certainly have the momentum, will be playing in their backyard and given the crowd will be behind them will be a difficult opposition to tame.
19 May 2015, 8p.m. IST
Wankhede Stadium, Mumbai
Chennai Super Kings will be missing the services of Brendon McCullum, who was their best performer in the league season, after he was released to join up with the New Zealand team on their ongoing tour of England. Hence the two-time champions will need their biggest match-winner and their most-consistent performer over the years – Suresh Raina – to step up now. The left-hander has had a decent run and has claimed to be playing with a lot of freedom, but it is now time for him to deliver the big runs one is so accustomed to seeing from him. Dwayne Smith, who has silently accumulated runs in the shadow of McCullum, and skipper MS Dhoni are among the other players who will be expected to deliver with the bat.
The Mumbai Indians will look towards their opening pair of Lendl Simmons and Parthiv Patel to provide a platform like they’ve done so often in the last few weeks. In this high-stakes match, two other players – skipper Rohit Sharma and all-rounder Kieron Pollard will be expected to deliver the big runs.
On the bowling front, MI will look towards their new-ball pair of Lasith Malinga and Mitchell McClenaghan to provide breakthroughs upfront – just like they did in the match against SRH, while CSK will look towards their spinners to tie the opposition down.
Contests to look-forward to
The contest between Suresh Raina and Harbhajan Singh promises to be interesting. The CSK batsman has so far had an ordinary season by his standards, but is known to raise his performance when the stakes are high. Harbhajan Singh meanwhile has enjoyed plenty of success – and has accounted for some of the key batsmen in the opposition ranks, which include the scalps of Virender Sehwag, Murali Vijay, Brendon McCullum, Dwayne Smith, Chris Gayle and Robin Uthappa among others.
Also watch out for the contest between Dwayne Bravo, the bowler, and Rohit Sharma, Kieron Pollard and Hardik Pandya in the MI ranks. The CSK all-rounder, a death overs specialist, has been a handful with all his variations, but he will be up against some of the biggest six-hitters when he runs in to bowl to Rohit, Pollard and Hardik.
The head to head between CSK & MI is split down the centre, with both teams winning 10 matches apiece. In matches at the Wankhede Stadium though, MI have had a fair grip over CSK winning 4 of the 6 matches.
The two teams met twice in the regular league season a few weeks ago. In the first meeting at the Wankhede Stadium, MI appeared to be in a comfortable position after having posted 183 runs on the board, before they were decimated by the CSK opening pair of Brendon McCullum and Dwayne Smith, who were involved a partnership of 109 that lasted just 7.2 overs. CSK cantered to a comfortable six wicket win thereafter, with 20 balls to spare.
In the return fixture in Chennai, CSK were restricted to 158-5, and MI chased the runs down comfortably, thanks to a 84-run opening stand between Lendl Simmons and Parthiv Patel. CSK pulled things back slightly at the fag end of the innings, before Ambati Rayudu and Hardik Pandya carted the ball over the boundary thrice each, to help MI win by six wickets with four balls to spare.
The average first innings total in Pepsi IPL 2015 matches at the Wankhede Stadium is 181.
The Chennai Super Kings have won only 3 of their 7 matches on the road in Pepsi IPL 2015.
7 of 9 Chennai Super Kings’ wins in Pepsi IPL 2015 have been in matches where they’ve batted first.
The Chennai Super Kings are the only team to have finished among the top four teams in every season of IPL.
The last occasion the Mumbai Indians finished in the second position in the points table – in 2013 – they went on the clinch the title.
Kieron Pollard is the second-highest six-hitter in T20 cricket; the Trinidadian, who plays for Mumbai Indians, has hit 355 sixes in the 249 innings he has batted in the T20 format.
The winner of this match will proceed straight to the Final of Pepsi IPL 2015, scheduled to be played in Kolkata on May 24. The loser will travel to Ranchi to play in Qualifier 2 – scheduled to be played on May 22 – which will feature the winner of the Eliminator (Royal Challengers Bangalore v Rajasthan Royals).