Defending champions Chennai Super Kings' undefeated home run this season will be under threat when they take on an upbeat Deccan Chargers in their Indian Premier League match in Chennai on Sunday.
The crucial clash at the M A Chidambaram Stadium here provides the visiting team the chance to go level on points with CSK while victory will see the Mahendra Singh Dhoni-led champions record their fourth successive win at home this season.
Notoriously slow starters to the season, CSK's campaign has been kept on course by their three home wins and they will be keen to keep the run going but the Chargers too are high on confidence after their recent big win over Kochi Tuskers Kerala.
The match is set to be a battle of wits between the might of Chennai's batting and the rejuvenated bowling attack of the Chargers -- albeit on a helpful pitch -- after their 55-run victory over KTK on Wednesday.
In a match during which KTK were shot out for a paltry 74 runs, Ishant Sharma claimed five for 12 in a sensational spell of seam and bounce, while South African Dale Steyn snared three of his own.
Dhoni's men, though good players of spin, will also be wary of the threat posed by Amit Mishra, who has sneaked up on the wicket-taker's list to go joint second with nine scalps amid all the under-performance around him.
Deccan will look to dismiss CSK's Indo-Aussie opening pair of Murali Vijay and Michael Hussey quickly.
Vijay has looked solid, but has failed to keep his head and thrown his wicket away more often than not even as Hussey has lent assurance and order to the line-up ever since he joined the team after Australia's tour of Bangladesh. But the danger man will be home boy S Badrinath, who is in splendid form and, with three half centuries, is the team's leading scorer in IPL 4.
Badrinath has been playing with commanding poise and Sangakkara will be keen not to let him out of sight for too long.
However, CSK, whose strength is batting, will be concerned that except for Badrinath and Hussey and Vijay's 74 against Kings XI Punjab that now seems like an aberration, no other big name bat has done the business for them yet. Dhoni is uncharacteristically struggling for runs as is Suresh Raina, the franchise's highest run-getter in their three-season history.
South African all-rounder Albie Morkel, retained prior to the IPL auction in January, looks more ex-factor than x-factor with the bat.
The visitors' batting, in which only skipper Kumar Sangakkara has consistently made runs, will be severely put under pressure by the bowling of Australian pacer Doug Bollinger, local boy R Ashwin and the right-arm medium of Morkel.
Bollinger, who was crucial to the turnaround in CSK's fortunes last season, has once again excelled as their strike bowler, taking eight wickets at an exemplary economy rate of 5.93.
The Aussie will be fresh off winning the Man of the Match award for his figures of 3/21 in CSK's last match against the Pune Warriors.
While Ashwin has provided crucial breakthroughs for his skipper, Morkel has also chipped in with six wickets.
The Teams (from):
Chennai Super Kings: Mahendra Singh Dhoni (c), Murali Vijay, Suresh Raina, S Badrinath, Ravichandran Ashwin, Shadab Jakati, Michael Hussey, Albie Morkel, Ben Hilfenhaus, Doug Bollinger, G Bailey, Tim Southee, F du Plessis, Suraj Randiv, Nuwan Kulasekara, Joginder Sharma, Yo Mahesh, A Mukund, Wriddhiman Saha, Scott Styris, Sudeep Tyagi, K Vasudevadas, G Vignesh.
Deccan Chargers: Kumar Sangakkara (c), Ashish Reddy, Anand Rajan, Ankit Sharma, Akash Bhandari, Bharat Chipli, Daniel Christian, Kedar Devdhar, Shikhar Dhawan, Jean Paul Duminy, Manpreet Gony, Harmeet Singh, Ishank Jaggi, Michael Lumb, Chris Lynn, Ishan Malhotra, Amit Mishra, Pragyan Ojha, Ravi Teja, Jaydev Shah, Ishant Sharma, Sunny Sohal, Dale Steyn, Rusty Theron, Cameron White, Arjun Yadav.