After two months of gruelling and high-octane action of Twenty20 cricket, the stage is set for the title clash of cash-rich Indian Premier League (IPL) between Chennai Super Kings and Sunrisers Hyderabad at the Wankhede Stadium in Mumbai on May 27. After topping the points table in the league stages, both Chennai and Hyderabad played near perfect cricket to reach the finals of the big-ticket tournament. (IPL 2018 FULL COVERAGE)
Studded with several heavyweights, CSK and SRH will look to put their best foot forward for the one final time in the winner-take-all clash on Sunday.
While Chennai, the two-time IPL champions, already made to the final beating Hyderabad by two wickets in the Qualifier 1, Hyderabad had to overcame Kolkata's challenge in the Qualifier 2 to seal a place in the coveted final.
Interestingly, this will be the fourth time when Chennai will take on Hyderabad in the eleventh edition of IPL. However, Mahendra Singh Dhoni-led Super Kings' hold a clear advantage over their southern neighbours as they beaten the Orange army thrice in this season. For many cricket experts and pundits, the Sunday's final will be a clash between Chennai's dauting batting unit and Hyderabad's shrewd bowling attack .
As the two teams get ready for the final, we take a look at a few key battles which could prove crucial and will decide the result of the match:-
MS Dhoni vs Rashid Khan
Unarguably, this will be the most-awaited battle which every cricket lover would be eagerly waiting for. Both Dhoni and Rashid are the key players for their respective franchises CSK and SRH in the high-octane final at Wankhede. Considered as one of the best finishers in white ball cricket, Dhoni's mere presence on the field is enough to send shivers in the opposition's camp. After two quiet seasons with now defunct franchise Rising Pune Supergiant, the veteran stalwart has found his mojo back for his beloved CSK. His stats in this year's edition also justify this claim, the 'Thala' has scored 455 runs in 15 matches at an impressive average of more than 75 and a strike-rate of over 150.
On the other hand, Rashid's stature in world cricket has only grown leaps and bounds after his consistent performances in the ongoing edition of IPL. In the 16 matches he has played so far, the young Afghan sensation has picked up 21 wickets with a tidy economy of 6.78. In the Qualifier 2 against Kolkata Knight Riders, Rashid single-handedly carried SRH into the finals with an all-round effort with the bat and bowl.
This will be an another intruiging battle which will definitely catch everyone's attention from the all-important summit clash. Playing his first season of Indian Premier League, Ngidi has emerged as the pace bowling spearhead of the yellow brigade. After making a dream debut against India in the Centurion Test early this year, the lanky fast bowler has had an impressive stint so far in the slam-bang league. He has played six games in IPL so far, picking up 10 wickets at a brilliant economy of less than six. He will once again have to step up against Sunrisers on Sunday if Chennai want to claim the coveted title for the third time.
After taking over the captaincy reigns from Australia's David Warner, Kane Williamson has led Sunrisers Hyderabad admirably on the field. Be it while making crunch decisions or leading his side with the bat, the Kiwi has performed both the roles with aplomb. Rated as one of the best batters of the current generation, Williamson has amassed 688 runs in 16 games so far at an average of 52.92 and a strike rate of close to 145. With eight half-centuries against his name, Kane is also the proud owner of the Orange cap in IPL 2018.
Ambati Rayudu vs Siddarth Kaul
If there is one man who has redeemed himself in this edition of IPL, it will be none other than - Ambati Rayudu who has played a stellar role with the bat while donning the yellow jersey. The Guntur-born batsman has repaid the faith shown in him by CSK management by playing some memorable knocks for his franchise. His unbeaten hundred against Sunrisers in Pune is one of the most memorable batting performance in this season of the cash-rich T20 league. Rayudu has scored 586 runs in 15 matches this season with an outstanding strike-rate of 153. He will once again be the Chennai in the important final against similar foes.
For Hyderabad, medium pacer Siddharth Kaul has stepped up for the Orange camp with the ball and played a crucial role in taking his side to the finals of T20 tournament. His tidy line and length have not allowed batsmen to score freely and it will once again be a task for CSK batsmen to score freely against the wily customer.
Shane Watson vs Shakib Al Hasan
All-rounders play a crucial role in team's success when it comes to the shortest format of the game. They have the ability to change the tide of the game with both bat and ball. And the form of Watson and Shakib will be important to their team's fortune when it comes to the big-final. The burly Australia has scored 438 runs in 14 matches this season at a brilliant strike-rate of 145. With the bowl as well, he has picked up 6 wickets. His match-winning hundred against Rajasthan Royals is a highlight of the season for the yellow army.
Whereas, Shakib who is rated as one of the best all-rounders in world cricket has made a decent impact for SRH. The 31-year old has smashed 216 runs in 16 matches for his franchise and also contributed in team's success by picking up 14 wickets. His ability to slow down the run flow and pick up crucial wickets will come in handy for Sunrisers against the strong Super Kings' batting lineup in the final.