Chennai Super Kings are back in the final of the Indian Premier League for a sixth time in the competition’s eight-year history. After topping the IPL points table in 2015, Super Kings were denied a straight route to the final by Mumbai Indians on their opponents’ own pitch. But they set up a rematch with the team from India’s most populous city by beating Royal Challengers Bangalore in Friday’s second qualifier.
Mahendra Singh Dhoni’s Super Kings came out on top against an in-form Royal Challengers by three wickets in a thrilling finale in Ranchi. After Ashish Nera took the prized scalps of Virat Kohli and AB de Villiers to restrict Royal Challengers to 139, veteran Australian Mike Hussey proved the unlikely hero in the chase with 56 runs in 46 balls to power Super Kings to victory on the penultimate ball.
Super Kings have been the most consistent side in IPL’s history, reaching the playoffs every season. And they were the most consistent in this year’s group phase, too, although, after a strong start, they found themselves in the position of taking on the star-laden Royal Challengers on the back of just three wins in their last eight matches. And Dhoni insists that there is still room for improvement ahead of Sunday’s final at Kolkata’s Eden Gardens.
“We have improved with each and every game,” Dhoni said after the semifinal win, according to The Times of India. “We have to play sensibly and have to pick our moments. That's one area we need to improve.”
In order to lift the trophy for a third time, Super Kings will now have to get the better of an opponent that beat them just five days earlier and were also victorious when the sides met in Chennai earlier this month. Unlike Super Kings, Mumbai made a grindingly slow start to this IPL season, losing f their first four matches. Yet they now come into their third IPL final courtesy of nine wins in their last 10 outings. And Mumbai’s West Indian all-rounder Kieron Pollard says the format of IPL means it shouldn’t be surprising that it took the team a while to gel.
“I don't think anything was lacking,” he said, reports ESPN Cricinfo. “This is franchise cricket. It is a group of guys coming together two or three days before a tournament. "Sometimes the team that adapts quickly builds momentum. We're not playing together as a team [for the rest of the year]. New players come in every year. You have to give it time sometimes. Some teams click faster than some others.”
Mumbai’s achievement has been made all the more impressive by the fact that they have been without two of their international stars -- Australian opener Aaron Finch and New Zealand all-rounder Corey Anderson -- for much of the competition. Yet Super Kings have also shown they can overcome a key absence, having come through their elimination match with Royal Challengers without Brendon McCullum. The opener, who is the Super Kings’ top run scorer this season, remains in England captaining New Zealand during their first test.
Match time: 10:30 a.m. EDT
TV channel: For viewers in the United States, Dish and Mediacom will offer pay-per-view coverage, with subscriptions available through your set-top box or contacting your provider.
Live streaming info: ESPN Cricket will provide live-streaming coverage of the final for $4.99.