Pune: A down and out Pune Warriors will have their work cut out as they host the ruthless Chennai Super Kings in game 42 of IPL 6 at the Subrata Roy Sahara Stadium on Tuesday. Pune are virtually out of the competition after losing seven out of their nine matches so far, while Chennai have picked up their pace after a not so promising start to 2013.
Pune picked up a victory the last time these two teams met but a lot has changed since then. Chennai have not lost a game ever since and Pune have slumped down at the bottom with a run-rate of -1.386. CSK, after winning their match against Kolkata Knight Riders, took their points tally to 14 and dethroned Royal Challengers Bangalore from the top spot. With Pune's horrible form unlikely to end against an impressive CSK, a David vs Goliath type contest in on the cards.
Chennai have everything falling right in place. Michael Hussey has been their key element at the top with 445 runs in nine matches and is just next to Chris Gayle in the leading run-scorers' list. The question mark prevailing over his opening partner might just have been answered in the form of Wriddhiman Saha who played second fiddle to Hussey at the top of the innings with a brisk 39 against Kolkata. Chennai have the longest batting order compared to any other team as their batting goes down all the way to No. 9.
With a strong middle order in MS Dhoni, S Badrinath and Dwayne Bravo, CSK have been able to stomp their authority over the rest of the sides. Suresh Raina continues to provide stability at No. 3 whereas skipper Dhoni has given finishing touches in quite a few matches this year. Badrinath needs to come in handier and Bravo with his all-round skills has proven his worth. Ravindra Jadeja and Chris Morris are both capable of striking the ball neat and clean.
The Chennai bowlers have been equally on the mark. Mohit Sharma has bowled tightly and Bravo and Morris have been the unsung heroes with their accurate yorkers and slower deliveries at the death. R Ashwin and Jadeja have been able to squeeze in quick overs without leaking too many.
Pune's place at the bottom of the table has been marred by some inconsistent performances throughout the tournament. Original skipper Angelo Matthews has been made to sit following poor form with both bat and ball. With the domestic players failing miserably, the team has been hugely dependent on skipper Aaron Finch and Steve Smith. Finch has shown his skills in bits and pieces with some handy innings at the top and Smith has been able to use the long handle in the last overs. Yuvraj Singh and opener Robin Uthappa are the only domestic players who have shown a bit of promise but are yet to fire big. Domestic veterans Mithun Manhas and Abhishek Nayar have been one of the biggest disappointments failing to capitalise of the opportunities provided.
It has been a tough time for Pune's bowlers, especially after the 'massacre' by Gayle. They have been all over the place with the exception of Bhuvaneshwar Kumar who has been able to swing the ball not making things easy for the batsmen. Ashok Dinda has had a forgetful outing this year except for his three-wicket haul against Delhi Daredevils on Sunday. Rahul Sharma has had a few good matches and Yuvraj, with his part-time spin, has shown glimpses of a good spell.
It would be an uphill task for the out-of from Pune as Chennai are on a roll looking to capture their third IPL title.
Pune Warriors: 1 Aaron Finch (capt), 2 Robin Uthappa (wk), 3 Yuvraj Singh, 4 Steve Smith, 5 Luke Wright, 6 Mithun Manhas, 7 Abhishek Nayar, 8 Kane Richardson, 9 Bhuvaneshwar Kumar, 10 Rahul Sharma, 11 Ashok Dinda
Chennai Super Kings: 1 Michael Hussey, 2 Wriddhiman Saha, 3 Suresh Raina, 4 S Badrinath, 5 MS Dhoni (capt/wk), 6 Ravindra Jadeja, 7 Dwayne Bravo, 8 Chris Morris, 9 R Ashwin, 10 Mohit Sharma, 11 Dirk Nannes/Jason Holder