Arun Gopalakrishnan in Mumbai
Preview: Semi-Final 1 - Rajasthan Royals vs Chennai Super Kings
Can the star-studded Super Kings conquer the determined Royals’ fortress?
The first semi-final of the Karbonn Smart CLT20 2013 will see the Rajasthan Royals and Chennai Super Kings lock horns in a bid to progress to the title clash.
RR have been invincible at home this season; they were undefeated in eight matches in the IPL season and followed that up winning all four matches in the Karbonn Smart CLT20 2013. Their run to the semi-final has been clinical – winning each of their matches convincingly and not leaving anything to chance. In their most recent outing, against the Otago Volts, they restricted a formidable opposition line-up to a reasonable 139 and chased it down in the last over.
CSK are among the most successful teams in the Twenty20 format. However, the side received a jolt in their final league outing when they were decimated by Trinidad & Tobago. After being put in to bat, CSK frittered away a solid platform built by Murali Vijay and Suresh Raina to be bowled out for 118. Their opponents didn’t release the pressure in the run-chase, knocking off the runs in 15.1 overs to displace CSK from the top of Group B.
CSK will start as favourites because of the depth in their line-up and their prior experience of playing in knockout matches. However, Rajasthan Royals, for whom punching above their weight must have become second nature by now, will not feel burdened by the pressures of this high-stakes contest. Expect a keen battle between two very focused sides.
Friday, October 4, 2013, 8 pm IST
Sawai Mansingh Stadium, Jaipur
There will be a sense of calmness – influenced by captain Rahul Dravid – in everything the Rajasthan Royals do. Consider this: the Royals have been unbeaten in the competition despite their two big guns – Dravid and Watson – not firing. There might not be a better time than this match against CSK for the two big guns to come good.
The top order, containing Dravid, Ajinkya Rahane and Sanju Samson, will be expected to build a platform from which the finishers – Shane Watson, Stuart Binny and Brad Hodge – will be expected to provide the final flourish. The two Australians – Watson and Hodge – in particular are the match-changers in the Royals’ ranks; both men possess the abilities to clear the fence on a consistent basis and get stuck into a bowler.
Among the Royals bowlers, James Faulkner has been impressive, picking up wickets consistently. In addition, the team has found a surprise performer almost every match; if it was Pravin Tambe in one game, it was Vikramjeet Singh in the other, and Rahul Shukla in another. Whose turn will it be on this occasion? Only time will tell.
CSK are a side packed with match-winners. However, the three players who almost always rise to the occasion are Michael Hussey, Suresh Raina and MS Dhoni. The Australian is the all-weather man in the team; he can set the pace early on, steady the ship when the chips are down, or force the issue at the end of the innings. Raina on the other hand is pretty much the enforcer; the highest run-getter in the IPL & CLT20, the left-hander has always played with a lot of freedom in this format.
How much does one say about MS Dhoni? The captain with the midas touch, Dhoni will be keen to stamp his authority yet again, especially after his team’s poor performance in the previous match. Dhoni, the batsman, is possibly the best finisher in world cricket currently; one only needs to look at his innings against the Sunrisers Hyerabad to understand the kind of damage he can cause.
The Rajasthan Royals and Chennai Super Kings have met on 13 occasions previously. MS Dhoni’s team has an edge over Rahul Dravid’s boys having defeated them on eight occasions. Both teams won their respective home matches in the most recent IPL season. While RR registered a convincing five-wicket victory at Jaipur, CSK clinched their home game off the penultimate ball of the match winning by five wickets as well.
Interestingly, in the contests between RR and CSK, it is the chasing team that has fared better. Of the 13 matches between the two sides, eight have been won by the team chasing.
The Chennai Super Kings have won only two of their four matches at the Sawai Mansingh Stadium.
The team that values every delivery best is the Chennai Super Kings; they have the lowest dot-ball percentage in the Karbonn Smart CLT20 2013 – 35.8 percent.
The Rajasthan Royals have been meanest in conceding boundaries; among all the bowling sides in the Karbonn Smart CLT20 2013, they have the lowest boundary percentage – 50.90 percent.
Winning the toss and batting first has been a very rare occurrence in the Karbonn Smart CLT20 2013; of the 26 matches played so far in the competition (including the Qualifiers), the captain winning the toss has opted to bat first only thrice.
The future course of the two teams will be determined by the result of this match. Whichever team wins this match will travel to Delhi for the all-important Final on October 6. The loser of this match will pack their kits and head home, although they will receive a purse of USD 500,000 as consolation.