Having registered its first away win of the tournament against Pune Warriors, Chennai Super Kings (eight points from seven games) will look to its home advantage to further the push towards a place in the play-offs when it takes on Deccan Chargers at the M.A. Chidambaram stadium on Sunday.
A glance down CSK's fixtures list reveals Rajasthan up next (May 4) at the same venue and, if over the course of four days between May 1 and 4, the defending champion can make its formidable home record (where it has won seven of the last eight matches) count, qualification for the play-offs should be free of jitters.
CSK has, so far, appeared most comfortable when defending a total at home, and the win against Pune, where S. Badrinath played a key role in the chase at Navi Mumbai, will have heartened the team coming into the contest against Deccan.
The circumstances are slightly more fraught for Chargers (six points from seven games so far), which hasn't yet won two matches in a row in this edition.
Defeat here will certainly not knock the side out, but will leave it with the knotty prospect of having to win a bulk of its remaining league fixtures to stay in the hunt.
From Chargers' limited stock of cheer, however, the side can pick the form of its bowlers to draw solace. Dale Steyn (nine wickets at 6.71 runs an over) and Ishant Sharma (seven wickets at 6.63) have been the architects of two of its three wins and pulled their weight in the side's 55-run demolition of Kochi Tuskers. The pair may not enjoy the same movement or carry off the wicket as it did in Kochi, but the sluggish Chennai track that might smother some of the direct threat that Chargers' pacemen pose, could well assist the side's tweakers Amit Mishra and Pragyan Ojha. Mishra and Badrinath have been revelatory this season, and while the IPL has often pitchforked rookies into national contention, it is also the pros who have reinvented their game to suit the format.
Badrinath, a serial run-getter at the domestic level, has belied his reputation as a stodgy accumulator to score 235 runs at a staggering average of 117.5 (and strike rate of 134.28) this edition. In a line-up where Michael Hussey (202 runs at 50.25) has been the only other consistent run-maker, the importance of Badrianth cannot be understated.
Contest within contest
In what could make for an exciting contest within a contest, the middle overs could well see Badrinath do battle with Mishra, the pick of the slow bowlers over the season.
Seven matches have yielded nine wickets at a miserly 6.07 runs an over for the leggie and alongside Ojha, constitutes a spin department at least as well stocked as CSK's.
Chargers, having broken its own home jinx earlier this season, will bank on its bowling strength on an up and down Chennai track to breach the home team's keep.
CSK coach Stephen Fleming confirmed that Albie Morkel, who had missed Chennai's last match, was in the reckoning against Chargers.