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The second of the playoff games in IPL 2012 will see the Mumbai Indians go up against defending champions, Chennai Super Kings.
Both teams can consider themselves lucky to have made it to the top four. The Mumbai Indians have made it to the playoffs despite not playing to their potential; Harbhajan Singh’s team has barely gone past the finish line in six of their ten victories. They could have easily ended up on the losing side on any other day. The Chennai Super Kings, meanwhile, sneaked into the playoffs because the Royal Challengers Bangalore threw away a golden opportunity to finish in the top four when they lost to the Deccan Chargers.
For the defending champions, this year’s 50 percent success record is their poorest showing in the league stages of an IPL season. That they’ve still managed to make it to this stage, best illustrates how fortunate they truly are.
Both teams will realize they need to be on top of their game for each of the 240 deliveries in this match. A single slipup could end up being the difference between progressing to the next game and finishing the tournament here itself.
Wednesday, May 23, 2012, 08:00 p.m.
M Chinnaswamy Stadium, Bengaluru
Big matches call for special temperament. And there are several players in this match who’re known for their match-winning ability. Expect them to come to the fore in this do-or-die contest.
In the Mumbai Indians line-up, keep an eye – as always – on Sachin Tendulkar. The Little Master has had an ordinary tournament by his standards; he’s only managed two half-centuries in 12 outings. The 39-year-old looked fluent in the previous match against the Rajasthan Royals – when he scored an unbeaten 58 and was involved in a match-winning partnership with Dwayne Smith at the top of the order.
Keep an eye on Rohit Sharma too. With several questions being asked about his temperament, this match (and the tournament final if MI progress that far) offers him the chance to silence his critics. Whether he stands up to the test and delivers the goods for his team remains to be seen.
In the Chennai Super Kings line-up, look out for Murali Vijay, Michael Hussey, Suresh Raina and skipper MS Dhoni. Vijay shed his poor form and produced a match-winning innings in the title clash of IPL 2011; after managing just 86 runs in his first eight innings this season, the 28-year-old seems to be striking form at the right time. He looked in good nick in his knocks of 48 against the Delhi Daredevils and 36 against the Kolkata Knight Riders, and he will look to continue the good work in this all-important clash.
Who can forget Michael Hussey’s match-winning innings of 60 against Pakistan in the semi-final of the ICC World T20 in 2010? When Australia had their backs against the wall and just as Pakistan was firming up their grip on the match, Hussey produced a special knock – an incredible assault to put it mildly. He singlehandedly took his team to the final of the competition.
Suresh Raina and MS Dhoni have had poor tournaments too; both players are yet to score a half-century this season and this could just be their moment of reckoning. To say Raina – the highest run-getter in the IPL – is the key to Chennai Super Kings’ success wouldn’t be wrong; the 25-year-old was the top-scorer in four of Chennai Super Kings’ seven knockout matches during the first four IPL seasons. He will need to come up with something special yet again, if his team hopes to make it a hat-trick of IPL titles. MS Dhoni’s unbeaten 91 in the Final of the 2011 ICC World Cup – and his six to seal the deal – will be fresh in the minds of most cricket fans. Expect Captain Cool to come up with the goods during this special occasion too.
The only bowler in this contest who can singlehandedly win the match for his team is Lasith Malinga. After picking up 20 wickets in his first eight matches, the Sri Lankan has gone off the boil picking up only two wickets in his next five matches. How well the CSK batsmen handle his four overs, how many runs they score off him and how many wickets they lose to him, will have a huge impact on who comes out on the right side of the result in this game.
The Mumbai Indians will be hopeful of extending the edge they have over the Chennai Super Kings – given their 6-4 win-loss record against the two-time champions.
CSK were 4-3 ahead after three seasons of the IPL. But since then, the Mumbai Indians have won all three of their meetings against the Super Kings.
When these two teams met this season, Harbhajan Singh’s team blanked out the defending champions, both home and away. In the first meeting between the two teams – in the season opener at Chennai – MI bowled out the hosts for 112 and chased down the required runs comfortably to win convincingly by eight wickets. In the return fixture at the Wankhede Stadium in Mumbai, CSK posted 173 for eight and called the shots for the majority of the match, only for Dwayne Smith to ruin their party by scoring the required 14 runs off the last three balls, to lead MI to a thrilling last-ball win.
Chennai Super Kings batsmen have scored the fewest 50-plus scores this season; they have posted only five 50-plus scores in IPL 2012.
The Mumbai Indians have tried eight different opening pairs this season – the most any team has tried in IPL 2012.
Harbhajan Singh has won 10 and lost six tosses in the 16 matches this season, while his counterpart MS Dhoni has just the opposite numbers – he’s won six and lost 10 tosses in 16 matches.
The last four matches at the M Chinnaswamy Stadium have been won by the team chasing.
Among the regular IPL venues, the M Chinnaswamy Stadium in Bengaluru has the highest boundary percentage; 61.27 percent of the runs scored in IPL matches at the venue have been through boundaries.
It will be the end of the road in IPL 2012 for the team that loses this contest. The winner, on the other hand, will head to Chennai for Qualifier 2, where they will be pitted against the Delhi Daredevils – who lost Qualifier 1 to the Kolkata Knight Riders.
“Tough watching the RCB chase. Bags packed and then unpacked and then packed again. Emotional roller coaster”, tweeted Chennai Super Kings coach Stephen Fleming when the Royal Challengers Bangalore were struggling to chase down 136 against the then bottom-placed Deccan Chargers. Eventually, RCB choked and crashed out of IPL 2012, presenting CSK a spot in the playoffs on account of their superior net run-rate.
Consider the three last-ball successful chases and an abandoned match, and you know that the defending champions have lived on the edge right through the league phase of the tournament. They have, nevertheless, managed to cross the line when it mattered.
CSK’s rough ride had a lot to do with them losing their invincibility at home. The team struggled to get to terms with the newly-laid wicket at Chepauk. Their star off-spinner, R Ashwin, who tormented batsmen in previous seasons, looked pedestrian this year. Their batsmen faltered in reading the two-paced wicket. Their battered confidence didn’t help them in their away games either.
What MS Dhoni’s men did remarkably well, though, is fight. Despite the crumbling middle order, inconsistent bowling and out of form Indian players, CSK never gave up till the final ball. They were brave and luck favoured them.
IPL 2012: The beginning was far from perfect – a thumping eight-wicket loss to the Mumbai Indians at home. CSK’s first win in the tournament was their 74-run cake-walk against the Deccan Chargers in Hyderabad. This win was scripted by the all-round brilliance of Ravindra Jadeja. The confidence of that triumph was shattered when they went to Delhi and returned with a harrowing eight-wicket defeat on a pacy wicket. CSK batsmen collapsed for 110 against the Daredevils’ fast bowling attack.
Then, they came home and hosted RCB for the most exciting match of the season. An unlikely chase of 206 runs was made possible by Albie Morkel’s seven-ball cameo of 28 runs. They continued to blow hot and cold with an away defeat and then a home victory against the Pune Warriors India and another last-ball win, against Rajasthan Royals at home.
Three narrow defeats that followed – against KXIP, KKR and MI – were a wake up call of sorts. This inspired the men from Chennai to three consecutive wins for the first time in the tournament. Despite losing their final league match to KXIP, CSK remained in contention thanks to a washed out game in Bengaluru. Batting star: Faf du Plessis came into the CSK squad in IPL 2011. He warmed the bench for the entire tournament and failed to get a game in the 2011 CLT20 as well. In 2012, Michael Hussey’s international commitments presented him with a chance to make it to the playing XI. By the time Hussey joined the team, du Plessis had become the most consistent performer of the team.
The South African batsman took on the mantle of opening the batting and made the position his own. Every time he stepped in to bat, he ensured his team got off to a good start, at a decent pace. In his debut IPL season, du Plessis has already scored more half-centuries – three – than any of his teammates. His consistency at the top of the order made saw him don the Orange Cap for a while, before he had to make way for Hussey at the top of the order. With 398 runs at 33.16 and a strike-rate of 130.92, du Plessis has been CSK’s best batsman in IPL 2012 so far.
Bowling star: Ben Hilfenhaus joined the team half way through the league phase and has played six matches so far. Already, he is the second-highest wicket-taker for CSK with 10 scalps – one less than Dwayne Bravo and Jadeja, who have played 16 matches each. Hilfenhaus has become an invaluable asset to the CSK bowling attack with his ability to swing the ball in Indian conditions at a decent pace. His best performance so far has been a fiery spell of swing bowling to rattle the dangerous top order of the Delhi Daredevils. The late out-swinger to dismiss Virender Sehwag was one of the best deliveries of the tournament.
X-Factor: Perhaps, the most important factor for CSK so far this season has been played by luck. That they have made it into the top four is a beautiful conspiracy of destiny. After they lost their last league match to KXIP, their only chance of survival was for RR and RCB to lose to the Deccan Chargers – the then last-placed team on the points table. As if breathed with a new life, the Chargers defeated both their opponents to answer CSK’s prayers.
CSK would obviously want the lady luck to keep smiling upon them during the playoffs as well. But what they’d want more is for their cricketing strength to come good. With some world-class finishers in their side – especially, Dhoni, Bravo and Morkel – the team from down south will always have an edge while chasing big targets or even while setting them. In Bravo and Morkel, they also have two perfect Twenty20 packages that can bat explosively, take wickets when needed and field brilliantly.