Chennai:It could well boil down to a battle of nerves as the two unbeaten teams in the Indian Premier League (IPL), Chennai Super Kings and Kolkata Knight Riders, clash at the MA Chidambaram Stadium on Saturday.
Knight Riders, with victories against Bangalore Royal Challengers and Hyderabad Deccan Chargers, currently head the points table on superior net run rate while Super Kings who defeated Kings XI Punjab and Mumbai Indians, are currently placed third behind Delhi Daredevils who too have won both their matches so far.
The Super Kings have already made it known that they would like to win their opening four games and then try to sustain the momentum. To achieve this, they are dependent on the two Australians, opener Matthew Hayden and Mike Hussey, to provide them solid starts, whether batting first or chasing.
To Super Kings' good fortune, left-hander Suresh Raina has been in top form and has proved to be as invaluable an asset as the Australians.
The Aussies return home after the fourth game against Royal Challengers April 28 in Bangalore, and hence the anxiety in the Super Kings camp is to make the most of the two quality batsmen who have played key roles in their two victories.
In contrast, the Knight Riders, boasting of an equally strong batting line-up with Brendon McCullum, skipper Sourav Ganguly, Ricky Ponting and David Hussey, would be seeking to retain their top spot on the leader board and appear fairly optimistic of putting it across the Super Kings considering that they boast of a superior bowling attack.
Young Ishant Sharma has spearheaded the Knight Riders' attack and looks to be in prime form at the moment. With Ashok Dinda, Mohammad Hafeez, Murali Karthik and Ajit Agarkar to back him up, it is as good an attack as any IPL captain could hope for.
In fact, Super Kings have been let down by their bowlers, notably opener Jacob Oram who has proved rather expensive in both the matches. In effect, skipper Mahendra Singh Dhoni has just four specialist bowlers among whom seamers Joginder Sharma and Manpreet Gony have been the pick. Sri Lankan spin wizard Muttiah Muralitharan has been blowing hot and cold, but the Super Kings are hoping he would strike form sooner rather than later.
In both the matches so far, Dhoni has not used a sixth bowler and that itself is an indication of the limitations he has to contend with.
The Knight Riders have suffered a setback with the West Indian opening batsman Chris Gayle still nursing a groin injury. His presence at the top would have been a huge boost for the Kolkata outfit. A final decision on Gayle's availability or a replacement, if required, would be made soon.
On paper, both the teams appear equally matched, but with another high-scoring game in prospect considering the featherbed of a pitch, a humdinger is in the offing. Even a total of 200 cannot guarantee victory as Super Kings would testify after just about defeating Mumbai Indians by six runs after scoring 208.
The playing elevens of both the teams would be finalised only on the day of the match after another inspection of the pitch.
Another factor that both teams have to deal with is the hot and humid weather as the game is scheduled for a 4 pm start. The city has been labouring under torrid heat for the past few days and it is just about entering into the peak phase of summer. Under these circumstances, there will be a premium on players' fitness.