CSK eye two points to improve play-off chances; KKR in must-win situation

Chennai: Four-time champions Chennai Super Kings (CSK) will clash with Kolkata Knight Riders (KKR) in an Indian Premier League match here on Sunday aiming for a win and strengthen their chances of sealing a play-offs berth.

The Super Kings with 15 points (12 matches) are better placed to go through to the next stage, while KKR (10 points) need to win their two remaining games and hope other results go their way.

Mahendra Singh Dhoni’s team comes into the match with two wins on the bounce and, like always, will be tough to beat at their ‘den’.

Even a couple of sixes from Dhoni’s bat are enough to send the Chepauk crowd into a tizzy and he did that in the previous match against Delhi Capitals, which proved vital.

For the home team, the opening batters Devon Conway (420 runs) and Ruturaj Gaikwad have been providing solid starts. Ajinkya Rahane and Shivam Dube have been benefitting from the clarity of roles they have been assigned and been vital cogs in the CSK batting line-up.

On a slow pitch, which saw the batters struggle, Dube managed a few big hits and he would be eyeing an encore on Sunday.

Though Moeen Ali, Ravindra Jadeja and Ambati Rayudu have not had the desired impact, the Super Kings have managed well.

The bowlers, Matheesha Pathirana in particular, have done the job for the skipper. Tushar Deshpande, albeit expensive, has managed to pick up wickets. The spinners — Jadeja, Moeen and Maheesh Theekshana — have been effective in putting the squeeze on opposition batters as the Delhi team found out on Wednesday.

KKR will also fancy their chances based on the presence of spinners, who have made an impact. How Varun Chakravarthy and leg-spinner Suyash Sharma bowl on Sunday could well decide the outcome of the match. The experienced Sunil Narine has been off-colour for a major part of the IPL season and will look to make amends.

Skipper Nitish Rana and Venkatesh Iyer have been the better performers in the batting line-up and KKR would be expecting the openers to provide a solid start so that the rest can build on that.

However, it is easier said than done with Pathirana expected to have a say in the proceedings with his mix of yorkers and slower ones. Jadeja could be one bowler the opposition batters would be wary of, as he hardly allows them time and is most often accurate.

The Knight Riders have to put behind the hammering at the hands of Rajasthan Royals on Thursday and approach Sunday’s fixture with a positive frame of mind. A loss on the morrow could hurt their chances of advancing in the tournament.

Squads: Chennai Super Kings: MS Dhoni (c & wk), Akash Singh, Moeen Ali, Bhagath Varma, Deepak Chahar, Devon Conway, Tushar Deshpande, Shivam Dube, Ruturaj Gaikwad, Rajvardhan Hangargekar, Ravindra Jadeja, Sisanda Magala, Ajay Mandal, Matheesha Pathirana, Dwaine Pretorius, Ajinkya Rahane, Shaik Rasheed, Ambati Rayudu, Mitchell Santner, Subhranshu Senapati, Simarjeet Singh, Nishant Sindhu, Prashant Solanki, Ben Stokes, Maheesh Theekshana.

Kolkata Knight Riders: Nitish Rana (c), Rahmanullah Gurbaz, Jason Roy, Venkatesh Iyer, Andre Russell, Sunil Narine, Shardul Thakur, Lockie Ferguson, Umesh Yadav, Tim Southee, Harshit Rana, Varun Chakravarthy, Anukul Roy, Rinku Singh, N. Jagadeesan, Vaibhav Arora, Suyash Sharma, David Wiese, Kulwant Khejroliya, Mandeep Singh, Aarya Desai and Johnson Charles.

Match starts: 7.30 pm.