Two teams with contrasting fortunes will take each other on at the JSCA International Stadium in Ranchi on Saturday (September 28), when Chennai Super Kings play Brisbane Heat in a Champions League Twenty20 2013 Group B clash.
Chennai, having won both their matches, know that a third win will assure them of a place in the semifinals. Brisbane, however, are at the other end of the spectrum. They're at the bottom of the pile and are fighting to stay alive in the tournament having lost both matches they've played. A loss against Chennai will knock them out of the running for the semifinal berth.
Going by recent form, the result may seem fairly straightforward, but Twenty20 cricket has a penchant for throwing up upsets. Brisbane, in desperation, are capable of punching above their weight and getting the better of a Chennai side, who know a loss wouldn't hurt them too much.
To do that, however, Brisbane will need to improve vastly. In the matches they've played so far - against Trinidad & Tobago and Titans - they restricted the opposition to low scores but floundered during the chase, the batsmen collapsing much too easily. Joe Burns scored 45 against T&T, and James Hopes, the captain, scored 37 against Titans. That apart, not one Brisbane batsman has managed to make a start, let alone get a big score, so far in the tournament.
The bowlers, meanwhile, have done very well to restrict oppositions to low totals. T&T could only manage 135 for 9 against them, when they played in Ranchi on Sunday, and Titans were bowled out for just 123. Ben Cutting, one of Brisbane's fast bowlers, couldn't hide his frustration with his team's batsmen. "The way we've bowled, rolling teams over for close to 120, a run-a-ball in Twenty20 cricket shouldn't be too hard a task for any top six team," he said. "We've just been digging ourselves a bit of a hole. In the first six overs, we haven't got off to a flier like the other teams have. That allows you to slow down, when you lose wickets through the middle, to really consolidate and build your innings. We do need a few of our top six batsmen to go on and really bat that innings."
Unlike Brisbane, Chennai have been efficient with the bat. In the first match against Titans, they successfully chased 185 with seven balls to spare, while against Sunrisers Hyderabad on Thursday, they put up a mammoth 202. Mahendra Singh Dhoni, the Chennai captain, was in a dangerous mood, smashing eight sixes on his way to a 19-ball 63, while Suresh Raina, scoring a 57-ball 84, seems to be in good form, racking up 131 in two matches.
Cutting admitted Brisbane needed to come up with a plan to handle Dhoni. "He (Dhoni) is pretty world-class, and that's why he gets paid the big bucks," said Cutting. "I certainly won't be bowling any wide yorkers to him, cause those normally tend to disappear over the boundary. I'll probably be bowling back of length. We'll have a look at the footage tonight and come up with the plan."
One possible weak link for Chennai is their bowling. They've had to heavily rely on their batsmen for their wins so far, with the bowlers leaking 375 runs in two matches. The fielding, against Hyderabad, was poor as well. There were a total of four dropped catches from Chennai, with Shikhar Dhawan, Darren Sammy (twice) and Karan Sharma given let offs. The considerable presence of dew in Ranchi is possibly a contributing factor for their poor bowling and fielding, but that could play right into the hands of the Brisbane batsmen looking to give a good account of themselves.
Chennai will be looking to seal a spot in the semis and ease off for the final group game. Brisbane, though, will need to conjure up a powerful performance to stay alive. Cutting was hopeful of doing just that. "It (qualifying) is a big task, but that's how we won the Big Bash back in Australia," he said. "We lost our first three or four games, but we still ended up winning the final. We probably play our best cricket when our backs are against the wall."
Chennai Super Kings: MS Dhoni (capt/wk), R Ashwin, S Badrinath, Dwayne Bravo, Faf du Plessis, Jason Holder, Mike Hussey, Imtiaz Ahmed, Ravindra Jadeja, Albie Morkel, Chris Morris, Suresh Raina, Wriddhiman Saha, Mohit Sharma, Murali Vijay.
Brisbane Heat: James Hopes (capt), Joe Burns, Peter Forrest, Dan Christian, Chris Lynn, Chris Hartley (wk), Ben Cutting, Chris Sabburg, Nathan Hauritz, Kemar Roach, Alister McDermott, Matthew Gale, Domonic Michael, Cameron Gannon, Brad Ipson.