Chennai, India – Two-time defending champion Chennai Super Kings will start as the overwhelming favourites in the Indian Premier League final against Kolkata Knight Riders on Sunday following two dominating performances in the playoffs that saw them seal a place in the final for the fourth time in five years.
Chennai packed off star-studded Mumbai Indians in the “eliminator” - the equivalent of a quarterfinal - after just about scraping through to the four-team playoff. It then ran up the season's highest total of 222-5 on Saturday to bat league topper Delhi Daredevils out of the contest in the second “qualifier.”
Opener Murali Vijay hit 113 from 58 balls to help Chennai win by a huge margin of 86 runs under lights at the Chidambaram Stadium, where a full capacity crowd of 40,000 is expected to cheer on the home team on Sunday when it chases a hat-trick of IPL crowns.
Delhi coach Eric Simons backed Chennai to make it three titles in a row.
“They struggled through the league system but came good at the business end, which is the sign of champions, and that is what they are,” the South African said.
“Chennai is a very balanced side and they sneaked into the playoffs with a mission. They are a tough team, balanced in both batting and bowling departments. They have eight batsmen and can rotate the strike well,” he added.
Kolkata, captained by India opener Gautam Gambhir, will be figuring in its maiden IPL final following a consistent run in the league phase and a confident 18-run win over Delhi in the first “qualifier”.
“Every team can beat the other on a given day, so we need to be wary and cannot take things lightly,” Vijay said of Kolkata. “The only thing I can tell you is that we are geared up for the match.”
Off-spinner Sunil Narine has been Kolkata's trump card and the West Indian is the second highest wicket-taker of the tournament this season with 24 victims from 14 games.
“Planning won't work against him,” Vijay said. “You have to watch the ball and play it accordingly. I want to keep it simple. Ideally in Twenty20, every team wants to score as many as runs as possible and put the opposition under pressure. We were lucky, but (then) everything went our way,” opener Vijay said, referring to the game against Delhi.
Chennai, Kolkata and Delhi have qualified for the Champions League. – Sapa-AP