Chennai: Saturday's mid-table clash between hosts Chennai and Rajasthan will change the fortunes of three teams. If Rajasthan win, they will further strengthen their bid for a semi-final slot and give Kolkata some breathing room. If Chennai win, and with a good run-rate, they could leapfrog among the top four places, thereby making Kolkata's job that much more difficult.
While Chennai registered a much-needed win over Bangalore the other night, Rajasthan's four-match winning streak came to an end against Delhi. And this is just the time that Chennai would want to strike back and avenge their 17-run loss in the away game at Ahemadabad.
The Super Kings finally seemed to have sorted out their batting. The lineup has begun to fire with Murali Vijay, Parthiv Patel, S Badrinath and Suresh Raina all among the runs. But their bowling, barring the wily Muttiah Muralithran's spin, continues to be a matter of concern. Albie Morkel, L Balaji, Sudeep Tyagi, Joginder Sharma and Manpreet Gony have been at best inconsistent. And such inconsisteny could cost them dear if the Rajasthan batsman find the sweet spot at the MA Chidambaram Stadium.
Shadab Jakati, who was costly in his first game, has come back to bag five wickets. Chennai must play the two spinners in Saturday's game as the duo have been their best bowlers. Chennai will also be boosted with the return of Doug Bollinger and Michael Hussey. Bollinger, in fact, could replace Morkel while Hayden may have to make way for an in-form Hussey.
The bowling for Chennai then will include Thilan Thushara, Bollinger, Muralitharan, Jakati and Balaji. This gives them enough firepower to challenge the Rajasthan batsmen.
Yusuf Pathan and Adam Voges have been in good form, both with the bat and the ball. If the visitors can avoid losing wickets at the top of the order, Naman Ojha, Aaron Finch, Paras Dogra and Abhishek Jhunjhunwala can all tonk the Chennai bowlers to all parts of the park. But what will be a cause of worry for Shane Warne is the form of Shaun Tait, who was taken to the cleaners by the Delhi batsman.
Saturday's game is like a formula one race, where strategy and performance must go hand-in-hand. One slip up, one wrong pit stop and dreams of making it to the podium could vanish into thin air.