IPL final will pitch batting might of Chennai against bowling mastery of Sunrisers

Rashid Khan and Lungi Ngidi could be the key figures in the final. (AFP)
Updated 26 May 2018
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IPL final will pitch batting might of Chennai against bowling mastery of Sunrisers

  • Seven-times finalists Chennai go up against 2016 winners
  • Chennai have beaten Sunrisers three times already this season

LONDON: On paper, the Indian Premier League (IPL) final on Sunday evening is a clash between the batting prowess of Chennai Super Kings, who will be contesting their seventh final, and the bowling might of Sunrisers Hyderabad, winners back in 2016.

At first glance, the stats would bear that out too. Four Chennai players — Ambati Rayudu (586), MS Dhoni (455), Shane Watson (438) and Suresh Raina (413) — have topped 400 runs for the season. And while Kane Williamson, Hyderabad’s captain, sits atop the run charts with 688, only Shikhar Dhawan (471) among his teammates has crossed 300.
On the bowling side, Hyderbad’s Rashid Khan and Siddharth Kaul both have 21 wickets, while Shakib Al-Hasan has 14. Not one of them has gone for more than eight runs an over. Chennai’s leading wicket-takers, Shardul Thakur (15) and Dwayne Bravo (13) have both conceded more than nine an over.
Such numbers, however, don’t really tell you how things have gone at the business end of the tournament. Chennai’s campaign has been invigorated by the inclusion of South Africa’s Lungi Ngidi, who had left for home earlier in the competition after the death of his father. He has 10 wickets from six games at a stellar economy rate of 5.9. The new-ball pairing with Deepak Chahar, who can swing it at decent pace, has transformed the team’s fortunes.
Hyderabad have lost four of their last five, and reached the final only after a monumental implosion from Kolkata Knight Riders in front of their home crowd. And it wasn’t a team effort either, with Rashid’s brilliance — 34 off 10 balls, 3 for 19, two catches and one run-out — dragging an underperforming side past the finish line.
Chennai have won all three of their meetings this season, though each game has gone to the wire. After being taken for 49 in the first game between the two sides, Rashid has returned figures of 0 for 25 and 2 for 11. It goes without saying that his intervention will be crucial if Hyderabad are to win a second title.
Chennai lead 8-2 in the head-to-head stakes, and have six players in their likely starting XI who have won the title before. But you have to go all the way back to 2011 for Chennai’s last success, and four losses in the final suggest that they are susceptible to big-match pressure. For that pressure to be felt, Hyderabad need runs. Williamson and Dhawan have scored at a decent clip when they’ve got starts, but there’s been a noticeable lack of oomph in the middle order. Manish Pandey has been dropped after a dreadful season, and Yusuf Pathan seems a shadow of the player who once bullied bowlers. Shakib, too, has failed to play an innings of substance.
It will also be interesting to see who Hyderabad pick for their playing XI. The decision to bench the steady Sandeep Sharma — 11 wickets at an economy rate of 7.02 — in favor of Khaleel Ahmed backfired spectacularly, as he was taken for 38 in three overs. Carlos Brathwaite held his nerve against Kolkata, but Chennai will doubtless target his medium pace after Faf du Plessis took him apart in the first qualifier.
Chennai will likely keep faith in du Plessis. Sam Billings, who he replaced for the first knockout game, started the season with a dazzling 23-ball 56, but has not been able to kick on from that. When Chennai plumped for a squad high on experience but relatively low on youthful vigour, there were more than a few skeptics. This run to the final, Dhoni’s eighth as captain (one of them was with Pune), has changed many of those minds, but the biggest hurdle remains to be crossed.
For Chennai, the IPL final has often been as hard to surmount as Becher’s Brook is for many horses at the Grand National.


Al-Hilal boss Jorge Jesus reveals Omar Abdulrahman will make debut in Super Cup clash in London

Updated 17 August 2018
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Al-Hilal boss Jorge Jesus reveals Omar Abdulrahman will make debut in Super Cup clash in London

  • New boss Jorge Jesus to give start to new star signing after $17 million move from Al-Ain last week.
  • Al-Hilal coach keen to put on a good show in London and start season with silverware against Al-Ittihad.

LONDON: Jorge Jesus confirmed Omar Abdulrahman will make his Al-Hilal debut in the Saudi Super Cup final against Al-Ittihad on Saturday.
The UAE playmaker joined the Saudi Pro League champions last week in a loan deal from Al-Ain that was worth $17 million, a fee that has only been surpassed once in football history. 
The 26-year-old has been training with his new teammates at English football’s HQ at St. George’s Park this week and traveled down to London on Friday with the rest of the team ahead of the showpiece game at Loftus Road.
Abdulrahman has not played since May, when Al-Ain were dumped out of the AFC Champions League by Lekhwiya, and he was not considered for the Arab Club Champions Club on Sunday, but Jesus said the 2016 Asian Player of the Year is line to make his first appearance for his boyhood club this weekend.
“Omar is training with the team for five or six days,” said Jesus. “Intelligent players like Omar learn fast, so that’s why he will be part of the game.”
There are various subplots to the game in west London, not least the fact that Al-Ittihad coach Ramon Diaz comes up against the club that fired him in February. He won the double in the first season in Riyadh and then choreographed Al-Hilal’s run to the final of the AFC Champions League in his second. Now he goes up against Jesus, the Portuguese tactician who replaced him this summer.
“It’s true Diaz could know the players more and this could influence the match, but they are working with my ideas today and I expect the match to be an excellent game,” said Jesus.
Al-Hilal lost the Super Cup the last time it was held in London, losing to Al-Ahli on penalties in a thriller at Fulham’s Craven Cottage ground. Jesus knows this year’s match could provide a launchpad for the season ahead and broaden the appeal of football in the Kingdom. 
“Everybody knows the importance of this match, because we play outside Saudi Arabia,” he said. “It represents the image of our football. We are happy to be present in London and play the Saudi Super Cup here. The eyes of Europe sees London as the center of football, so we need to create a good image of Saudi football.”

Jorge Jesus is looking to get his reign as Al-Hilal coach off to a winning start at QPR's Loftus Road ground on Saturday. 


Jesus will be without the injured Salman Al-Faraj, Abdullah Otayf and Nawaf Al-Abed while national team full-back Yasser Al-Shahrani will undergo a late fitness test. 
“We are missing some players but that should not reduce the importance of some players we have in the squad,” said Jesus. “We have to find our best combination of players to go to the match with.”
Mohammad Al-Shalhoub will captain the side from midfield following the departure of Osama Hawsawi and knows bragging rights are up for grabs on Saturday between Saudi Arabia’s two most successful clubs who have won the top prize in the Kingdom 23 times between them.
“It’s one match, there is no other chance,” he said. “We will do our best to win the cup. We can start the season well if we win this cup. We will fight hard to win, but Ittihad is doing their hardest to win it, too. We are super motivated to show a good level and start with a Saudi Super Cup victory.”
Al-Hilal labored to a 1-0 win over Al-Shabab on Sunday night and know they will need to be much nearer their best against last season’s King’s Cup winners.
“In the beginning of the season, you can have some difficulties,“ Al-Shalhoub said. “Our first home game in the Arab Cup we showed a good level, but we have to me more ready against Ittihad.”