Kolkata aim to knock Chennai off their perch
Having qualified for the finals following a thumping win over Delhi in the first qualifier, a confident Kolkata side would be looking to go all out and win the title for the first time when they meet the defending champions Chennai in the finals of the T20 League at the MA Chidambaram Stadium.
They were doubts over their qualification in the play-offs and there was just a slim chance that Chennai would have made it beyond the group stages. As they say luck favours the brave, other results went their way and they somehow qualified. They made sure that the opportunity was perfectly utilized as they thumped Mumbai by 21 points on Index in the eliminator and then humbled Delhi by 37 points in the second qualifier.
Their main concern, Murali Vijay struck gold at the right time as a thunderous century helped them post a mammoth 222 in the last game. Their batting was a worry of late but their batsmen have bounced back at a crucial juncture. The top and middle order contributed well against Delhi.
Suresh Raina showed glimpses of class but needs to get a big innings under his belt. Their middle order will face a stern test against the Kolkata spinners. Dhoni seems to have got his aggression back and he could prove to be dangerous lower down the order.
Their bowlers have done well to defend the targets against Mumbai and Delhi. Hilfenhaus has been brilliant in the Quick Start Overs. He along with Morkel have been good pace options upfront.
Dwayne Bravo’s contribution in the all-round department has been splendid. The biggest positive for them is return in form of Ravichandran Ashwin who has had a dismal outing so far. He took 3 wickets in the last match and Chennai would be hoping that he delivers the goods again against Kolkata’s strong middle order. Vijay, who topped the Index in the last match with 95 points, Dwayne Bravo and Ashwin will be the biggest threats for Kolkata.
Kolkata, on the other hand, having finished second in the table, played spectacularly to outclass Delhi in the first qualifier and qualify for the finals. A strong top order performance saw them post a competitive 162 against Delhi batting first and then the bowlers made sure that they defended it and outclassed them by 21 points on the Index.
Jacques Kallis’ dicey medium pacers in the middle overs helped them snap crucial wickets and he topped the Index with 44 points. Their openers, Gambhir and McCullum look in good touch and much will be expected from them this time around too. The biggest relief for them was Yusuf Pathan getting back in form with a breathtaking 40 off 21 balls at the death.
Sunil Narine has been their trump card and his contribution in the middle and Extreme Performance Overs against the likes of Hussey, Raina, Bravo and Dhoni will be important. Rajat Bhatia’s slow medium pacers have been the biggest boon for them.
It’s going to be their spinners versus Chennai’s batsmen contest. Gambhir and Narine will be the biggest threats for Chennai.
Kolkata have worked hard to reach so far in the tournament and they would be looking to go all out in their pursuit for their first title, Chennai, on the other hand, are on the verge of a third consecutive title and they are the masters of big occasions. But everything will depend on how their batsmen will perform against the vicious spinners of Sunil Narine. A cracker of a contest is definitely on cards.