Pune: Needing a win from three games to book a play-offs berth, former champions Chennai Super Kings take on table toppers Sun Risers Hyderabad in an Indian Premier League match here tomorrow.
The Mahendra Singh Dhoni-led Super Kings started their campaign, after returning to the T20 League from a two-year ban, on a high by winning five out of their first six games before losing to defending champions Mumbai Indians. They now have 14 points from 11 matches and they just need one win from the three games in hand. Last night's defeat to 2008 inaugural edition champions Rajasthan Royals, also returning to the fold after two years, has made CSK wait in their quest for a play-offs spot.
The four-wicket loss to the Royals was their third in their last five matches and another setback against Sunrisers, who have been the team to beat in this edition and are the first to enter the play-offs, could dent their chances. No wonder Dhoni lost his cool during the post match presentation and blamed his side's bowlers for failing to defend the total of 176 against Rajasthan Royals.
"We were supposed to bowl one particular length. The bowlers were instructed what to bowl: back of a length. They could not execute. We were hit for a lot of boundaries off full balls. 176 was a par-plus score, the bowlers let us down," the normally cool Dhoni said after losing to RR in Jaipur. The usually reliable Harbhajan Singh went for 29 runs for one wicket and was not called upon to bowl again although two overs of his four-over quota remained.
CSK's batting has clicked with all the players getting runs under their belt with Australian Shane Watson, Ambati Rayadu, Suresh Raina, skipper Dhoni and West Indian Dwayne all in good form. But they need to be backed up by the bowlers and a re-jigging of the bowling attack may be on the cards. With 18 points to their credit, SRH, led astutely by New Zealand skipper Kane Williamson will also look to consolidate their top spot and ensure a top-two finish at the end of the league stage.
Opener Shikhar Dhawan (290 runs) got into the groove at the opportune time with a big knock against Delhi Daredevils while inspirational skipper Williamson (493 runs) has been in prime form throughout the tournament. Yusuf Pathan (186 runs), Manish Pandey (184) and Shakib-Al-Hasan (158) have also chipped in at crunch situations.
But it is in their versatile bowling attack, the Sunrisers have been the pick of the teams. The bowlers, led by India pacer Bhuvneshwar Kumar, were terrific till the last game when Rishabh Pant took them on with a whirlwind unbeaten 128, albeit for a lost cause. The attack, which has successfully defended low totals, needs to erase the memories of the hammering it got against Delhi Daredevils and get back into the groove against the dangerous Super Kings batting line-up. Bhuvneshwar has been backed up superbly by Siddharth Kaul (13 wickets), Sandeep Sharma, leg spinner Rashid Khan (13) and Shakib-Al-Hasan (12).
Chennai Super Kings: Mahendra Singh Dhoni (C), Suresh Raina, Ravindra Jadeja, Faf Du Plesis, Harbhajan Singh, Dwayne Bravo, Shane Watson, Ambati Rayadu, Deepak Chahar, K M Asif, Kanish Seth, Lungi Ngidi, Dhruv Shorey, Murali Vijay, Sam Billings, Mark Wood, Kshtiz Sharma, Monu Kumar, Chaitanya Bishnoi, Imran Tahir, Karn Sharma, Shardul Thakur and N Jagadeesan, David Willy.
Sunrisers Hyderabad: Kane Williamson (C ), Shikhar Dhawan, Manish Pandey, Bhuvneshwar Kumar, Wriddhiman Saha, Siddharth Kaul, Deepak Hooda, Khaleel Ahmed, Sandeep Sharma, Yusuf Pathan, Shreevats Goswami, Ricky Bhui, Basil Thampi, T Natarajan, Sachin Baby, Bipul Sharma, Mehdi Hasan, Tanmay Agarwal, Alex Hales, Carlos Brathwaite, Rashid Khan, Shakib Al Hasan, Mohammad Nabi and Chris Jordan.
Match starts at 4 PM. (PTI)