Chennai, May 24 (IANS): The Chennai Super Kings juggernaut is well and truly rolling, and the Delhi Daredevils will have to play their best cricket yet to stop the defending champions in their own den when the two face off in the second qualifier of the Indian Premier League here Friday.
The Super Kings, led by the irresistible Mahendra Singh Dhoni, came up with a spectacular display while drubbing Mumbai Indians in the eliminator at Bangalore Wednesday night for their fourth win in five outings. On the other hand, Virender Sehwag's Daredevils came up short against the high flying Kolkata Knight Riders in the qualifier at Pune Tuesday.
The Daredevils receive a second chance to make the final via the qualifier-2 game on the morrow, but they go up against a team that has rediscovered its collective touch and form.
Super Kings and Daredevils are 1-1 this season after two low-scoring matches. Delhi's eight-wicket win chasing a target of 111, was early in the competition when the Super Kings visited them and were still to wake up from their slumber.
However, when they met next here at Chepauk a fortnight back, it was the Super Kings who raced to a nine-wicket victory after restricting Daredevils to 114.
In the past, the Super Kings have always produced their best when their backs are to the wall and this year has been no different. But this is hardly surprising, given the class and talent in their ranks besides enviable all-round strength that was on exhibition in Bangalore.
On their part, Daredevils have been the most consistent team in the league phase this season as they topped the table winning 11 of the 16 games, the results reflecting their revamped line-up that focused on strengthening their batting.
Daredevils' performance in the league also showcased their formidable bowling attack, spearheaded by leading wicket-taker Morne Morkel and ably assisted by young tearaways Umesh Yadav and Varun Aaron with Irfan Pathan providing another seam option.
However, they seem to be short on spin as the line-up is without a quality slow bowler, something that could go against them on the slowish Chepauk track that is known to aid spinners which the Super Kings have in plenty.
Despite boasting of an explosive opening pair of Sehwag and David Warner, followed by seasoned Mahela Jayawardene, Delhi's batting middle-order has been a suspect when put under pressure as was the case in Pune where the loss of early wickets eventually triggered a collapse.
The Super Kings would be looking to drive a wedge into this chink by getting into the Delhi middle-order at the earliest.
For sheer variety in bowling and all-rounders, few teams can match the Super Kings who have two quality fast bowlers in Albie Morkel, who is also a dangerous all-rounder, and Ben Hilfenhaus with the hugely talented Dwayne Bravo. Besides, Super Kings have spinners Ravichandran Ashwin, Ravindra Jadeja, Shadab Jakati and Suresh Raina.
To top it, the batting is as strong with Michael Hussey and Murali Vijay at the top followed by Raina, Dhoni and Subramaniam Badrinath. Though Vijay and Raina have not hit top form, the duo appears ripe to switch gears given the big occasion.
Thus, man to man, the Super Kings who have never topped the league table, but always figured in top four, look better equipped than the Daredevils and have virtually the same team that won the titles in the previous two seasons.
Despite the vicissitudes of T20 format, the Super Kings, following a week-long break between their final league game and the play-off, appear primed for the big fights. Thus, form and reputation point to another Super Kings success on the morrow.