Dubai: Punjab Kings and Chennai Super Kings had vastly different outcomes in their opening games, however, both will be concerned about one thing when they face each other on the flat track of Mumbai’s iconic Wankhede Stadium on Friday — bowling.
It is common knowledge that the Wankhede is among the most batsman-friendly wickets out there. The last nine T20s there have yielded an average score of 182 and if that were to be considered a yardstick then Chennai’s campaign-opening score of 188/7 is a little over par for the course, while Punjab’s 221/6 in its first match seems exceptional.
A performance, though, is only as good as the one delivered by an individual or a team on a given day. Results, however, aren’t. Hence, it’s best to relegate performances to history and focus on the things that can be improved and herein lies why both camps will be busy mulling over their bowling options as they consider the strong batting capabilities of the other.
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MS Dhoni has appeared distracted since his retirement from all formats of the game ahead of last year’s tournament. And it’s obvious that a lack of competitive playing time could have blurred his thinking and done away with his guile as skipper.
A connection could be instantly drawn as CSK failed to make the playoffs of the Indian Premier League for the first time in history.
In terms of form too, the CSK skipper seemed out of touch and scored 200 in 14 matches with his best an unbeaten 47. Not much appears to have changed this year with Dhoni starting dismally as he was dismissed for a duck off the second ball he faced. Opener Faf du Plessis (0) another mainstay of the CSK batting too fell leg before to the same bowler Avesh Khan on the third delivery he faced.
South African Du Plessis’ dismissal alongside the cheap ouster of his opening partner Ruturaj Gaikwad (5) might have terrified CSK, but they fought back with their middle order showing resistance. Moeen Ali (36), Suresh Raina (54), Ambati Rayudu (23), Ravindra Jadeja (26*) and Sam Curran (34) all scored quickly to rake up a fighting 188, which Delhi Capitals ended up surpassing with eight balls to spare.
It showed a lack of application from their bowlers, with Shardul Thakur landing two wickets but having leaked a massive 53: all in 3.4 overs. In comparison, Dwayne Bravo was definitely far better having finished with 1/28 from his four. Bravo scalped the prized head of Prithvi Shaw, who was devastating with a 38-ball 72 in a 138-run first wicket stand with Shikhar Dhawan (85 off 54). None of CSK’s bowlers had an answer to the Shaw-Dhawan conundrum which ended after the former imprudently chose to hack at a rather wide Bravo delivery and found the arms of Moeen Ali at deep cover.
Fine tuning is definitely required if CSK are to stop a side that has already put together the highest score of this year’s tournament. Punjab were too good in that opening game against Delhi Capitals, as skipper KL Rahul showed the way with a 50-ball 91, before Chris Gayle hit 40 off 28 and Deepak Hooda did even better with a 64 off 28 that saw the reds amass 221.
Not much will be changed as far as Punjab’s batting goes, but their bowling was disastrous with Arshdeep Singh (3/35) and Mohammed Shami (2/33) their best with the ball. Australian pace duo Riley Meredith and Jhye Richardson cost Punjab a bomb to purchase and were expensive (excuse the pun) with Samson ripping them. The silver lining for the pair might have been the one wicket each landed and with limited bowling options in the Punjab ranks both might still just about manage to convince selectors of giving them another chance.
Going by history, CSK have a better win loss of 14-9 against Punjab and Dhoni’s men can also take heart from the fact they won both heads-to-heads between the two last season in the UAE.
History might be on Chennai’s side, but having changed their name, Punjab will be hoping to change their place in IPL history too.
CATCH THE MATCH
Chennai v Punjab
Match starts at 6pm UAE