Kings XI Punjab will look to continue their two-match winning streak against Chennai Super Kings in IPL 2014 © IANS
Kings XI Punjab will look to continue their two-match winning streak against Chennai Super Kings in IPL 2014 © IANS


The Indian Premier League (IPL) 2014 has reached to its penultimate stage with Kings XI Punjab (KXIP) and Chennai Super Kings (CSK) battling out for a spot in the IPL 7 final. Abhijit Banare looks at the key battles in the Qualifier 2 of the IPL 2014 Playoffs.


Glenn Maxwell vs Ravichandran Ashwin: This is going to be the most anticipated duel of the evening. Glenn Maxwell has decoded Ravichandran Ashwin’s variations and has time and again hammered the off-spinner. Ashwin was completely deflated in the Cuttack encounter, where Kings XI Punjab (KXIP) piled up over 200. However, Ashwin has the ability to strike the big fish in crunch games. In the absence of a leg-spinner — who have troubled Maxwell — MS Dhoni will back Ashwin to attack Maxwell. If there was any leg-spin which Ashwin can bowl, it has to be the carom ball! Moreover, Maxwell hasn’t been at his best in the business end of the IPL. But once Ashwin comes over the wicket [instead of his usual round the wicket] Maxwell will love to accept the challenge head-on.


Sandeep Sharma vs Dwayne Smith: If Maxwell and Miller powered KXIP with the bat, Sandeep Sharma has been giving them perfect starts with the ball. The swing bowler has managed to trouble big names and will be the key for KXIP. Chennai Super Kings (CSK) changed their tactics by holding back Brendon McCullum and sending Faf du Plessis ahead in the IPL 7 Eliminator match against Mumbai Indians. But the dangerman continues to be Dwayne Smith. KXIP will be eager to see him off early and Sandeep’s swing could make the trick. The Wankhede track is among the better pitches for Sandeep to flourish.


Mitchell Johnson vs Suresh Raina: He is the Mr. consistent for CSK, and has been their backbone at No 3. Suresh Raina is known to keep the score moving and pick the boundaries occasionally. Mitchell Johnson is the fastest bowler in IPL 7. It’ll be a challenge for Raina to take on Johnson. Any experiments to score quickly can cause Raina’s downfall and his wicket will be the key for Punjab.


Manan Vohra vs Mohit Sharma: Manan Vohra has been a sound partner to Virender Sehwag, who seems to be off-colour. Despite the explosive pair of Maxwell and David Miller coming below in the batting order, KXIP would be more than happy to see their young talent Vohra to score a few runs. He can’t resist but go for his strokes and has been known to take the aerial route through mid-on and mid-wicket. He will have it tough against a fairly accurate Mohit Sharma, who mixes his deliveries pretty well. In a pressure game like an IPL playoff, a good start plays a key role.


MS Dhoni vs any KXIP bowler! — If you thought there’s anyone who could stop Dhoni, he very well deserves a ‘Keep Calm’ award. Dhoni has been excellent in finishing off the matches. And if CSK end up chasing, Dhoni would do well to power CSK into the final of the IPL 2014. During key matches, it’s more about Dhoni’s calm approach than the skills which make a difference. For Kolkata Knight Riders, Narine will be the trump card to deal with Dhoni, but considering his credentials in finishing matches, the Indian captain holds the edge.


Yes, there’s one more interesting duel, Dhoni vs Bailey at the toss! This is the duel about who calls Heads and gets it right. On a Wankhede pitch, you would be joking to not chase a target after winning the toss.


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(Abhijit Banare is a reporter at CricketCountry. He is an avid quizzer and loves to analyse and dig out interesting facts which allows him to learn something new every day. Apart from cricket he also likes to keep a sharp eye on Indian politics, and can be followed on Twitter and blog)