Match date: May 27
Venue: Wankhede stadium, Mumbai
Rewind to IPL 2017. Rising Pune Supergiant and Mumbai Indians played each other thrice before the final – twice in the group stage and then once in the first qualifier. Pune got the better of Mumbai on all three occasions, before slipping to a one-run loss in the most important game.
The above trivia might or might not be relevant now, but Sunrisers Hyderabad will hope the pattern repeats when they take on Chennai Super Kings in the title clash. Hyderabad topped the league table, but have been beaten thrice by Chennai on their way to the final. Kane Williamson’s men seemed to have lost momentum at the worst possible time in the tournament, but they ended their four-match losing streak against Kolkata Knight Riders at Eden Gardens. Now, with renewed vigour, Hyderabad will be hoping to complete a terrific season with their second IPL title.
Needless to say, it will not be easy, and the game won’t be over until it officially is. They found that out not too long ago at the very same venue against the very same opposition, in the first qualifier. Chennai seemed down and out, but they had a hero in Faf du Plessis who took them past the line. Yet again, this game could boil down to Hyderabad’s bowling v Chennai’s batting. Hyderabad’s ability to defend totals v Chennai’s ability to chase down targets. It’s the perfect finish to what has been the most competitive IPL so far.
It’s also a clash of two sharp leaders in Williamson and MS Dhoni. Both have scored runs – surprising many with their consistency – and been on top of their captaincy games. Both are known to be calm, and the pressure of a big game is unlikely to get to them. That would rub into their teams on the big night.
What would the teams be like? Chennai are unlikely to make any change, given Faf du Plessis’ heroics against Hyderabad earlier in the week. He should continue to open with Shane Watson, which means Ambati Rayudu would bat at No. 4. Rayudu and Watson failed to get going in the previous match, and their form is important against an all-round Hyderabad attack. Rayudu in particular has to be at his best, considering he could come in at a time when one Mr. Rashid Khan, perhaps the best T20 spinner at the moment, operates.
In fact, how the Chennai batting line-up goes against Rashid could well decide the direction in which the game goes. Kolkata found out the other day that attacking Rashid is not the best of choices. Add Rashid the batsman and Rashid the fielder to it, and Hyderabad have a deadly three-in-one weapon. What a stunning story it would be if he can repeat the performance one more time!
On the other hand, Chennai have their own big list of match winners too, both with bat and ball. They’ve also got the experience of playing the big finals – this is the seventh IPL final Chennai have been in, although they’ve converted only two of those into championships. If they can add one more, that will be a special story for the franchise after the turmoil of the previous two years.
Played: 9, Chennai 7, Hyderabad 2.
Head-to-head at the Wankhede:
Played: 1, Chennai 1, Hyderabad 0.