58 days,73 matches and 12 venues later we are at the same place we started. The IPL 2023 final mirrors the season opener between defending champions Gujarat Titans and four-time winners Chennai Super Kings. Although MS Dhoni’s side would be hoping to reverse the result from that fixture where they were beaten comprehensively by five wickets.
On the other hand, the wounds of qualifier-1 would be still fresh in the minds of Hardik Pandya and his men who lost to CSK by 15 runs. However, the wrath of the defeat was felt by Mumbai Indians on Friday when they were thumped by 62 runs. The victory restated the fact that in the home conditions, the Titans can steamroll any side on any given day.
At Chepauk Chennai had a clear advantage as they were well equipped for those conditions. On the night defending 172 runs as the surface slowed down the Chennai spinners came into the game and dismantled the Titan’s middle order. However, they might not be having the same luxury in Ahmedabad as the conditions will be completely different.
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Based on previous encounters, here’s where the game may be decided:
New ball spells
26-wickets have fallen in the Powerplay at this ground. If Titans have Mohammed Shami to exploit the conditions Chennai has Deepak Chahar; both equally dangerous bowlers when they get their tune right.
Chahar’s season has been lethal with the new ball in the games he has been available. Out of the 12 wickets he picked this season 10 of them came in the Powerplay in nine games. And CSK needs him to step up as well and pick up Shubman Gill who has been on a rampage this season. If Chahar can pick Gill early doors the Titans’ batting who has been reliant on him heavily might have to play without their comfort blanket and approach the innings differently.
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Similarly, Shami has been picking wickets for fun with the new ball. He has picked up 17 wickets in the Powerplay this season. Both Ruturaj Gaikwad and Devon Conway have contributed 775 runs at an average of 55.35 this season and been striking at 8.82 per over. They have contributed to 45.47 of the team’s runs this season. Breaking this partnership might put CSK on the back foot and expose the inconsistent middle order.
Ravindra Jadeja vs Right-hander heavy GT batting
The Titans have been scoring at 7.00, losing 10 wickets to left-arm spin this season. In the first qualifier against Titans, Jadeja was the wrecker-in-chief, picking up two wickets in the middle overs, conceding just 18 runs in the middle overs and breaking the back of the Titans in the run-chase.
Given the number of right-handers in the Titans order it might be a challenge again for them to face Jadeja who has been brilliant this year irrespective of the surface. It has been the best season for the star all-rounder with the ball in his IPL career. He has been Mr. Reliable for MSD in the middle overs – 19 wickets at a miserly economy of 7.42.
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Though the introduction of Sai Sudharsan in the previous game added a left-hander at the top of the order, interestingly, he has been striking at 103.57 against left-arm spin this season. The South African power-hitter David Miller has had only limited chances to play left-arm spin, striking at 109.09 and dismissed twice by them. In fact, he was bamboozled by Jadeja in the first playoff game.
If Jadeja gets going again he might turn the contest in favour of CSK by providing middle-over breakthroughs.
Mohit Sharma vs Matheesha Pathirana
After his five wickets against Mumbai Indians in the last game. Mohit Sharma will be high on confidence and will be looking to prove a point against his former side where he made his IPL debut. Coming in to bowl after the 10th over in most games, similar to Matheesha Pathirana, Sharma this year has picked up 24 wickets; he has been lethal at the death with his back-of-the-hand slower balls. Courtesy of his skills and smarts Titans have been the best death bowling in the tournament going at 9.61.
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If the slower ball is Mohit’s weapon, Pathirana’s arsenal has been filled with toe-crushing yorkers. Courtesy Sri Lankan’s pace and accuracy, CSK has been the second-best death bowling team, going at 9.77. They restricted well at home in the previous encounter, but defending in Ahmedabad would be a completely different challenge. Titans have been scoring at 11.94 which is the highest in this phase. CSK though are not far behind with 11.52.
Both Mohit’s and Pathirana’s spells at the backend may be crucial in which way this game may turn. As per the stats so far this season the Titans have a clear upper hand in this phase.