Hold on to your hats! The 29th match of IPL7 is a mouth-watering clash between the wise, old hands of the Chennai Super Kings and the brash, big-hitting Kings XI Punjab.
And with both sides occupying the top two positions in the table, this could be a dress rehearsal for the grand final. Let's take a look at the sides ahead of this intriguing matchup.
Venue: Cuttack, India
Date: Wednesday, May 7, 2014
Start time: 8:00 p.m. local time, 2:30 p.m. GMT
Weather: It is scheduled to be another warm evening in Cuttack with temperatures around 100 Fahrenheit, according to bbc.co.uk/weather.
TV Info: ITV4 (U.K.)
Some have suggested that mass interest in the IPL has waned a little this year. Perhaps this isn't a surprise considering the unsustainable hype given to each season/game/wicket/delivery/boundary etc. However, this tussle between two genuine heavyweight contenders is a fascinating contest.
Chennai have long been the superpower of this tournament, winning it twice in 2010 and 2011, and missing out on making the final just once in 2009.
Through the consistent recruitment of high-profile cricketers such as MS Dhoni, Ravichandran Ashwin and Suresh Raina, the Super Kings have managed to build a sense of team identity lacking in the other teams, and it is these players who keep the men in yellow well-grounded and calm in face of difficult match situations.
This season, Dwayne Smith and Brendon McCullum have forged a powerful opening partnership—they sit second and third in the highest run-scorer charts respectively—often allowing the sport's best finisher, Dhoni, the luxury of floating up and down the middle-order as circumstance dictates.
With the ball Ashwin and surprise package Ishwar Pandey generally create the pressure by keeping it tight, allowing Ravindra Jadeja and Mohit Sharma to mop up the bulk of the wickets.
Six wins on the bounce have led to CSK sitting on top of the table, but memories of the way they were man-handled by Kings XI in their opening game of the season will still be fresh.
On that occasion, Punjab put down a marker by chasing down a mammoth target of 205 with seven balls to spare. The key instigators were David Miller who hit 54 off 37 balls and Glenn Maxwell who bludgeoned 95 from just 43 deliveries.
"The Big Show" has gone on to be the story of the tournament so far and is currently in possession of the much vaunted Orange Cap. But the Aussie isn't solely responsible for the team winning five of their six games so far.
Virender Sehwag and Cheteshwar Pujara have formed an "odd couple" opening partnership with the former, trying to hit every ball to the boundary and the latter keeping the scoreboard ticking over knowing that the likes of Maxwell and Miller will provide the fireworks later.
The wickets have been shared around the bowling attack of which the undoubted leader is Mitchell Johnson. Rishi Dhawan and Sandeep Sharma's medium pace has proven very difficult for opposing batsmen to get away, though.
Over the years, the sides have met on 12 occasions with Chennai coming out on top eight times and Punjab four.
Form (Latest Left to Right)
MS Dhoni, Dwayne Bravo, Dwayne Smith, Suresh Raina, Ravichandran Ashwin, Ravindra Jadeja, Francois du Plessis, Brendon McCullum, Ashish Nehra, Mohit Sharma, Ben Hilfenhaus, Samuel Badree, Matt Henry, Baba Aparajith, Mithun Manhas, Ishwar Pandey, Pawan Negi, Ronit More, Vijay Shankar, John Hastings.
George Bailey (c), Shaun Marsh, David Miller, Virender Sehwag, Cheteshwar Pujara, Gurkeerat Singh, Mandeep Singh, Manan Vohra, Rishi Dhawan, Glenn Maxwell, Akshar Patel, Thisara Perera, Wriddhiman Saha, Parvinder Awana, Lakshmipathy Balaji, Beuran Hendricks, Mitchell Johnson, Murali Kartik, Anureet Singh, Karanveer Singh, Sandeep Sharma, Shardul Thakur, Shivam Sharma
Players to Watch
Dwayne Smith tends to travel under the radar a little in terms of T20 recognition but the Barbadian has been a colossus so far in this campaign. See his match-winning knock of 79 off 51 balls against Delhi. So far, seven muscular innings have yielded 335 runs, 24 sixes and four half centuries although the 31-year-old's bowling has taken a back seat.
It's got to be Glenn Maxwell right? The self-styled "Big Show" has already scored 345 runs but it's the way he's scored them that has been most impressive. With 19 maximums and three half-centuries, the Australian has scored at a stunning rate of 196.02 that has single-handedly taken games away from the opposition.
Chennai have collected six wins in a row and seem unstoppable right now. And with memories of their surprising loss to Punjab in the third game of IPL 7 still fresh, MS Dhoni and co. might just exact a spot of revenge here.
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