A series of back and knee injuries delayed the entry of Ben Hilfenhaus into the Australian side and it is understandable that during the practice sessions,the 29-year old takes special care of his body. He bowls in short bursts and doesnt use his full run-up. However,his match performances havent lacked in intensity,as Virender Sehwag learnt the hard way a few days back,after being castled by an unplayable delivery at Chepauk on Saturday.
When the Chennai Super Kings take on the Kolkata Knight Riders on Monday,the Australian will once again be a key factor. The Australian seamer completed his engagements in the West Indies for the national side before joining the IPL midway through,and despite the difficulties he must have faced in getting himself used to a different format and different conditions,has hit the ground running. Hilfenhaus has so far played just four matches in this IPL but his eight wickets have helped Chennai win three of them. In fact,his consecutive Man-of-the-Match performances against Rajasthan (two for eight) and Delhi (three for 23) have helped Chennais campaign get back on track.
Hilfenhaus has brought some spark that was missing, skipper Mahendra Singh Dhoni said,ahead of Mondays contest. The bowler himself had put it down to getting the basics right.
Chennai will hope that Hilfenhaus continues his good work with the new ball as they have to win both their remaining matches to assure themselves a berth in the play-offs. Especially crucial will be the match against the Knight Riders,who are qualification hopefuls themselves. Chennai have 15 points from 14 matches,while Kolkata have a two-point advantage over the defending champions with a game in hand. A Rohit Sharma special had stopped the side in their last match,but a win here will more or less assure qualification for Gautam Gambhirs men.
The collective strength of KKRs squad notwithstanding,the side tend to do well when their captain gets them going at the top of the order. Against Mumbai,Gambhir got out early and his team gave up the chase too easily. A lot will depend on who wins the early rounds in the contest between the Kolkata captain and Hilfenhaus. Another mini battle between R Ashwin and Sunil Narine could also prove crucial. Ashwin is a proven performer in this format with one of the lowest economy rates in the history of IPL,but would want a few more wickets in the bag this edition (eight from 14 matches). Narine,on the other hand,has ticked both boxes,taking 15 wickets at an economy rate of 5.47. Chennai have Michael Hussey,Suresh Raina and Dhoni,all good players of spin bowling and will hope they can ensure Kolkata dont do the double over them.
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