After 59 matches, 19,119 runs, 667 wickets, 770 sixes and 4,828 dot balls, we have finally arrived at the most anticipated match of this IPL - the final. With everything on the line now, two familiar foes in Chennai Super Kings and the mighty Mumbai Indians are set to lock horns on May 12 with both aiming for a record fourth IPL title.
Both powerhouses have been remarkable this season, having played the best cricket, formed the best possible combinations and won the small moments that define a back-breaking IPL fixture. They ended the group stage with the top two spots. However, Chennai, who were outclassed in the first Qualifier by the same opposition, had to get past Delhi Capitals to reach the finals. MI, on the other hand, have a firm grip on CSK's collar this season, having thrashed them in three matchups.
At present, it looks like MI are the favourites to clinch an unprecedented fourth IPL title, not only due to their domination of CSK but also from their team composition. On paper and on recent form, Rohit Sharma's side is the better equipped. They have all the bases covered - from a top order featuring the lethal Quinton de Kock and Rohit Sharma, match-winning all-rounders in Kieron Pollard, Krunal Pandya and Hardik Pandya to a sharp bowling attack led by Jasprit Bumrah and the experienced Lasith Malinga.
On the other side, one cannot ignore the number of game changers in the Chennai camp, along with the unmatched intelligence of MS Dhoni, who will feature in his ninth IPL final. Last season, CSK entered the final against SRH having beaten them thrice before and went on to lift the title while brushing aside the law of averages. Can MI now give Dhoni and co. a taste of their own medicine, or will the Chennai retain the coveted trophy?
Here's all you need to know ahead of the mouth-watering clash:
May 12, Sunday
Venue: Rajiv Gandhi International Stadium, Hyderabad
Time: 7:30 pm IST
In what is widely regarded as the 'El-Clasico' of the IPL, Mumbai has the upper hand over CSK as the only side in the competition to hold a strong record against the Yellow Army. In 29 meetings, MI has come out victorious 17 times, while CSK has beat their fierce rivals on 12 occasions.
Chennai Super Kings: Shane Watson, Faf du Plessis, Suresh Raina, Ambati Rayudu, Mahendra Singh Dhoni (C & WK), Ravindra Jadeja, Dwayne Bravo, Deepak Chahar, Harbhajan Singh, Imran Tahir, Shardul Thakur
Mumbai Indians: Rohit Sharma (C), Quinton de Kock (WK), Suryakumar Yadav, Ishan Kishan, Kieron Pollard, Hardik Pandya, Krunal Pandya, Mitchell McClenaghan, Rahul Chahar, Lasith Malinga, Jasprit Bumrah
Chennai Super Kings: CSK's Suresh Raina is one to watch out for due to a fine record in the playoffs. His side overcame a top order scare in the previous game against Delhi, but the onus will be on him to resurrect and anchor the innings should an early wicket fall. He has been blowing hot and cold recently but Raina is a fantastic player of spin, which could help him counter the threat posed by Rahul Chahar and Krunal Pandya on a damp Hyderabad wicket. His knock may well be a defining factor in the final.
Mumbai Indians: MI's season has been full of small contributions from each of their players, which is what makes the side so relentless. On the other end of the scale is Hardik Pandya whose contribution to the team has, perhaps, been unparalleled. He has won games for MI with both bat and ball on a consistent basis. CSK will have to be wary of his knack of taking wickets at critical junctures as well as his destructive finishing at the death with the willow.
Key battle - Du Plessis vs Chahar
Faf du Plessis is CSK's man for the big occasions. The South Africa skipper brings a wealth of experience, soaks pressure and controls the innings at the top. At times, he's simply unstoppable. He will, however, be up against Rohit Sharma's trump card - Rahul Chahar. The leggie has been the find of the season for Mumbai and has delivered consistently throughout the season. Du Plessis struggles against deliveries that are wide of the stumps. And with Chahar known for his knack of tossing it up outside off stump and enticing the batsmen forward, we are in for a battle!
It's a tough call as both captains rotate bowlers well and use the spin battery to great effect. The match will be defined by the little moments; maybe a 20-run over or an early wicket. MI has the better middle order for sure as CSK is reliant on their skipper to give the finishing touches. We expect one of the top three for Chennai to play a match-winning knock, especially now that Shane Watson and Faf du Plessis have gained confidence. We are predicting a CSK win!