IPL 12 reaches its climax
The 2019 IPL season has for a long time seemed to be a race between three, and with just four days to go until we crown a champion, it’s those three teams who are left standing. The Mumbai Indians, Chennai Super Kings and Delhi Capitals opened up a significant gap on the rest of the field throughout the season, all three of them ultimately finished with nine wins from 14 games - three more than their nearest competitors.
The Capitals could count themselves unlucky for missing out on the Qualifier, instead having to go through the Eliminator against the fourth place Sunrisers Hyderabad to advance to the final three despite being one of the dominant teams of the year. However, despite a couple of hiccups which threatened to prematurely end their season in the closing stages of that Eliminator, they managed to chase down the target of 162 set by Sunrisers with a couple of balls to spare, setting up a Qualifier 2 showdown against the Super Kings. So let’s take a look at the remaining three teams - their strengths, weaknesses, and chances of taking out the title.
Though they finished on the same number of wins as Chennai and Delhi, the Mumbai Indians were deserved top-place finishers at the end of the regular season, with their net run rate of 0.421 significantly better than either of those two teams. Led by a top order of Quinton de Kock, Rohit Sharma and Suryakumar Yadav, all of whom have averaged in excess of 30 at a strike rate of over over 130 (or very marginally under at 129.56 in the case of Rohit), and an explosive tournament from Hardik Pandya - who has the extraordinary numbers of 393 runs at an average of 49.12 and a mind-blowing strike rate of 194.55 - they have been tough to contain from a batting perspective.
Add to that their well-rounded bowling lineup, with Jasprit Bumrah, Rahul Chahar and Krunal Pandya all picking up consistent wickets while conceding less than seven runs per over, and Lasith Malinga and Hardik Pandya snaring 15 and 14 wickets respectively - albeit at a significantly higher economy rate - and the Mumbai Indians have been one of the best teams in the league both with bat and ball.
Their performance in Qualifier 1 solidified them as the team to beat, restricting the Super Kings to just 131/4 before chasing it down with relative ease in 18.3 overs. That earned them a direct trip to the finals, where they will head in as deserved favourites against either the Super Kings or the Capitals.
Chennai Super Kings
Last year’s winners, the Chennai Super Kings, have put in another great season in 2019, winning nine of their 14 games to finish in second place in the standings. MS Dhoni, for all the question marks about his future in the national side, proved he still has plenty to give with the type of series only he could produce. In ten innings he has been dismissed just three times, scoring 405 runs at a strike rate of 138.69, and courtesy of his ability to remain unbeaten, an average of 405. Aside from him, however, the batting lineup has largely failed to fire: Faf du Plessis has been solid though not particularly damaging, while his opening partner Shane Watson has averaged just 17.86. Suresh Raina has been solid without being spectacular, while Ambati Rayudu has scored his 261 runs at a strike rate of just 93.54.
It’s with the ball where they have fired, with Imran Tahir leading the way. The South African spinner’s 23 wickets are the second most in the league, and have come at an average of 16.52 and the very impressive economy rate of 6.62. Harbhajan Singh has shown he’s still got it with 14 wickets in just nine games at an average of 18.14, while Deepak Chahar’s 17 wickets have also been impressive. Add to that Ravindra Jadeja’s economy rate of just 6.28 - he has also snared 13 wickets - and you’ve got yourself some sort of bowling lineup, with spin leading the way.
Despite losing Qualifier 1 to the Mumbai Indians, and despite the fact that the betting odds suggest it will be close, CSK will feel confident in their ability to beat the Capitals and advance through to the final. They won both games between the two sides this season, with the second of those coming in convincing fashion just a couple of weeks ago - in that game, the Super Kings made 179/4 before rolling the Capitals for just 99. A perennially successful team, a win in Friday’s game will give CSK a chance to become the first team to win four titles, and win consecutive titles for the second time - a feat no other team has accomplished.
In arguably their best season to date, the Delhi Capitals have become one of the most exciting teams to watch in the IPL in 2019 thanks largely to their explosive batting lineup. Shikhar Dhawan has been elite at the top of the order, averaging 35.92 at a strike rate of 135.94 to become the fourth highest run scorer in the tournament. His fellow opener, Prithvi Shaw, has been solid without being spectacular, while the next two men in, Shreyas Iyer and Rishabh Pant, have been terrific. Each of them has scored exactly 450 runs, with Rishabh’s strike rate of 163.63 particularly important.
With ball in hand they have been a little less well-rounded, but the presence of the league’s leading wicket-taker has been a welcome one. Kagiso Rabada has been establishing himself as one of the world’s best bowler in both short and long forms of the game in recent years, and his 25 wickets in this tournament have only furthered to consolidate that. The wickets have come at an average of 14.72 and a strike rate of 11.28 - giving him more than a wicket every two overs.
Few would argue that they didn’t deserve to beat Sunrisers Hyderabad in the Eliminator, both from the perspective of the two sides’ respective seasons and within the game itself, but it very nearly went pear-shaped. Needing just 12 from the last two overs with five wickets in hand and five from the last over with three wickets in hand, it took until the second last delivery of the match to get them there, but get there they did. A Qualifier against the Super Kings awaits, and with it a chance to advance through to the first final in their 12 seasons. They will have their work cut out against a franchise which has a lot more experience in this situation than themselves, but their talented side is more than capable of a win - and if the odds are anything to go by, expect it to be close.