Delhi Daredevils, the last visiting team to nick a win at the M.A. Chidambaram Stadium and that too in the previous edition, will take on Chennai Super Kings on May 12 in a contest that holds a very divergent set of promises for the two teams.
A win for Super Kings (14 points from 11 matches) in its homestead will stretch its unbeaten streak here to six matches, and more importantly, consolidate its place in the top four.
Daredevils (eight points from 11 matches and third from bottom) has just a ‘mathematical' possibility of making the cut-off, a polite way of saying the side would do well to avoid the wooden spoon from here on.
Even in a format that thrives on unpredictability, Super Kings has shown that assembling a unit whose skills dovetail with the demands of the surface and conditions will tilt the odds in its favour.
Ravichandran Ashwin (12 wickets), Doug Bollinger and Albie Morkel (13 wickets each) all figure in the top 10 wicket-takers' list this edition and have helped defend several smallish totals at home.
The only worry as far as the bowling goes, and a happy one at that for M.S. Dhoni, would be in fitting all-rounder Dwayne Bravo into the attack while still retaining a favourable spinner-to-fast bowler ratio.
Super Kings' batting form has picked up over the course of the tournament.
Recent contributions from Murali Vijay, Suresh Raina and Dhoni should take some of the pressure off Michael Hussey (388 runs, average 55.32) and Subramaniam Badrinath (294 runs at 98), who did the bulk of the scoring in the initial stages.
Two of Delhi's four wins this season were set up by savage knocks by Virender Sehwag, and his absence will further tilt the scales against the visitors. Delhi's current top run makers — David Warner and Venugopala Rao — will have to lead the batting and the team should avoid losing too many early wickets, a failing that has characterised Daredevils' batting implosions this year.
Hopes takes over
James Hopes, taking over the reins from Sehwag, will also look to his spin options in Roelof van der Merwe and Shahbaz Nadeem to play a bigger role than they have so far, in conditions that will aid turn.
Super Kings will enjoy a bit of a breather after the match against Delhi (playing its next match at home against Kochi Tuskers on May 18), and will not want to spend the time looking over its shoulders at the rest of the pack.
A win, on the other hand, will open up possibilities of finishing in the top two, allowing Super Kings the luxury of having two shots at the final in the play-off stage.