Kane Williamson holds key as Hyderabad hope to halt Chennai
Sunrisers and Super Kings had identical regular-season records
Qualifier 1: Hyderabad v Chennai
Sky Sports Cricket, 2.30pm Tuesday
Chennai Super Kings returned to the IPL this season after serving a two-year corruption ban and they start the four-team playoffs as 6-4 favourites to lift the trophy.
Chennai tackle table-topping Sunrisers Hyderabad in the first qualifier with the winners going straight into Sunday’s final and the losers facing the victors of Wednesday’s eliminator between Rajasthan and Kolkata.
Hyderabad and Chennai had identical regular-season records with nine wins and five losses but bookmakers expect the Super Kings’ playoff experience to give them the edge.
Before their ban, MS Dhoni’s men had reached six of the eight IPL finals and a squad packed with 30-somethings have proved there is still life in the old dogs, particularly in their league meetings with Hyderabad.
The Sunrisers' bowlers have put in some outstanding performances this season but Chennai chased 180 to beat them in Pune for the loss of only two wickets, having won the first game between the sides by four runs.
That slender margin was chiefly due to a 51-ball 84 from Kane Williamson and Hyderabad may well require more heroics from their skipper if they are to beat Chennai at Mumbai’s Wankhede Stadium.
Williamson has been a model of calm and consistency for the Sunrisers this season after taking the captaincy at short notice due to David Warner’s ban.
The New Zealand skipper isn’t a stereotypical Twenty20 biffer (although he did hit five sixes in that 84 against Chennai) but his classy, intelligent, unflappable approach has yielded 661 runs, second only to Rishabh Pant of Delhi in the regular season.
Ambati Rayudu has been the unlikely batting star for Chennai although Dhoni, Shane Watson, Dwayne Bravo and Suresh Raina are also capable of fireworks with the willow.
However, one of the less familiar names on the Chennai roster stands out in the betting to be named man of the match in the first qualifier – uncapped Indian seamer Deepak Chahar.
The 25-year-old tormented Hyderabad on their own patch, claiming wickets in each of his first three overs to finish with 3-15 off his four overs.
He was equally parsimonious in the return fixture in Pune on May 13, conceding just 16 runs in four overs and dismissing opener Alex Hales during the Powerplay period.
Chahar showcased another facet of his game against Kings XI Punjab on Sunday, when he was pushed up the batting order to disrupt the plans of opposing captain Ravichandran Ashwin.
Sent in at number six, ahead of Dhoni, he cracked three sixes in a useful knock of 39 off 20 balls so Chennai might be tempted to promote him again depending on the situation in the match.
Earlier, Chahar produced a vicious delivery to have Kings XI’s Aaron Finch caught at slip and he could play a big role in Chennai’s charge to the final.
K Williamson top Hyderabad runscorer
2pts 5-2 Sky Bet
D Chahar to be man of the match
1pt 25-1 Betway
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