If ever there was a contest for the two most equally balanced sides in the competition, it has to be the second semi-final between Chennai Super Kings and Kings XI Punjab that will be played on Thursday at Hyderabad. Both sides have a similar line up, packed up big hitters in the top and middle order. The bowling mechanism of the two sides is also pretty similar. They have a couple of handy guys, but largely their tactic is about the restricting the opponents, and trying to keep the run rate under control. As such, the contest might well be a batting extravaganza.
Starting with Kings XI first, they have a line-up that just refuses to give the opponents any breathing space. At the top, there is veteran Virender Sehwag, who has been in blazing form recently. If it is his day, like it was in the IPL semi-final earlier this year, he could single-handedly knock Chennai out of the tournament. But, this team is no one-man army. Sehwag’s opening partner Manan Vohra is equally explosive, and as he has shown in this series, and the IPL as well, if he gets going there is no stopping him.
If Chennai can get rid of the openers early, they have to content with Glenn Maxwell, who can play the most bizarre of strokes, and yet pull off the incredible for Punjab. Chennai must get him early in the semis to have a decent chance of winning. And, that is not all, South African big-hitter David Miller is to follow. He has played a couple of smashing knocks in the tournament, and would be high on confidence. Come to think of it, we are only just mentioning skipper George Bailey, who is an expert big-hitter in himself.
Chennai can match Punjab man to man in the batting department. Their openers Brendon McCullum and Dwayne Smith are as dangerous as Sehwag and Vohra. Also, they have proved themselves as a pair, and have often given the team scintillating starts, which means they know their job well. The explosive opening duo is followed by the most dangerous and successful T20 player in domestic history – Suresh Raina, also the man for the big occasion. And, in case big hits are needed, the likes of Ravindra Jadeja, skipper MS Dhoni and Dwayne Bravo can be depended upon.
It is the bowling which is a worry for both sides as neither team has a strong attack. Punjab have found a decent bowler in Anureet Singh, but it remains to be seen how he performs under pressure against a top batting outfit like Chennai. By far, Akshar Patel has been their best bowler, but again he would be tested by Chennai. The same logic applies to Chennai has well. If you take the death bowling skills of Dwayne Bravo apart, they really struggle with the ball. It remains to be seen which team suffers owing to their bowling weaknesses.
--By A Cricket Analyst