Flintoff and Pietersen ready for IPL clash
The Chennai Super Kings will no doubt rely on Eastern Cape stalwart Makhaya Ntini’s superior knowledge of local conditions when they oppose the Bangalore Royal Challengers in the Indian Premier League at Sahara Oval St George’s today.
With only four foreigners allowed to play per match, Ntini missed out on Saturday’s opening day loss to the Mumbai Indians, but Chennai coach, New Zealander Stephen Fleming will do well to play the dependable Warriors speedster on his home turf as last year’s beaten finalists aim to get their season on track.
With the shrewd Fleming as coach and influential Indian captain Mahendra Singh Dhoni leading the team, together with the big-hitting South African Albie Morkel, the Super Kings are the bookies’ favourites to take this year’s IPL title.
Morkel missed the season opener after an airport mix-up when his luggage was lost between Johannesburg and Cape Town and the explosive batsman will be eager to start his campaign on a high.
Former Australian opener Matthew Hayden, Parthiv Patel and Murali Vijay form a dangerous trio of opening options. They will be backed up by the in-form Suresh Raina and Dhoni. The team also boasts some of the world’s best allrounders in Flintoff, Morkel and Jacob Oram.
Besides the pace of Ntini, Fleming can also call upon the wily skills of arguably the greatest bowler ever, spin-wizard Muttiah Muralitharan. The world’s leading Test wicket-taker will be ably supported by the skills of off-spinner Ravichandran Ashwin.
Criticised last year for having the outlook of a Test team, Bangalore demolished defending champions, Shane Warne’s Rajasthan Royals by 75 runs at Newlands on Saturdays and they will no doubt want to continue with their winning ways.
The two team’s fought out two tough battles last year, with Bangalore going down by 13 runs at home before turning the tables in Chennai by 14 runs. But since then, both teams have added to their armour by acquiring the two most expensive players in the league, with Chennai and Bangalore both paying 1.55 million for Andrew Flintoff and Kevin Pietersen respectively.
The prospect of England stalwarts Flintoff and Pietersen facing off against each other is worth the entrance fee alone. Pietersen can be relatively pleased with his IPL debut performance, when he scored 32 off 30 balls.
The Royal Challengers had an embarrassingly bad first season in the IPL, beginning as one of the favourites before ending a poor seventh on the log. But the owners have since signed Pietersen and aggressive New Zealander Jesse Ryder to strengthen a batting line- up which has a strong South African spine in Jacques Kallis and Mark Boucher.
Strike bowler Dale Steyn heads an impressive attack that also includes the likes of former Indian captain Anil Kumble who rolled back the years on Saturday to take an unbelievable five wickets for a miserly six runs. Adding to the South African flavour will be Bangalore coach Ray Jennings.