IPL final preview: Kolkata v Chennai

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Kolkata have been incredibly consistent, but Chennai have the Big Match Temperament. We look ahead to Sunday's IPL final and give our prediction.

The mark of a champion team is so often one that wins when they are not at their best, and when they really have to. Such has been the way of the Chennai Super Kings this season.

When they had won just four of their first 10 games, it looked for all money as if the victors of the last two Indian Premier Leagues were about to concede their crown. That they have made it to the final is not so much a case of them turning their season around to sweep all before them as it is a story of pulling a rabbit out of the hat when all seemed lost. Dwayne Bravo's six off the final ball of the match to beat Kolkata in match 63 is the best case in point.

With that in mind it would take a brave man to bet against the Super Kings. After all, they have been here before and done the business. Not only is this their third final in a row, but it's their fourth in five seasons. They are on the brink of constructing something approaching a legacy in what remains a young tournament.

Most impressive has been the way that everyone has contributed at some stage of the season. Faf du Plessis played a big part in their revival, when Murali Vijay was going through a horror run. When the top order failed, the likes of MS Dhoni and Bravo came to the party. If several key men click in the final, they will be unstoppable.

Any neutral with a heart will surely be backing the Knight Riders though. Their first three seasons produced nothing but failure, to the point that you couldn't help but feel sorry for them as they became the only team without a top-four finish.

No team used the redraft quite as effectively as they did, and after finishing fourth in 2011 they have been brilliantly consistent in 2012. Gautam Gambhir is one of the undoubted good guys in the Indian game, and he has led the team superbly both in the field and with bat in hand.

Despite a rocky start they have gone on to win nine of their last 11 games, and have produced the most intriguing star of the tournament in Sunil Narine. Even when the West Indian hasn't taken wickets, no-one has been able to collar him.

However, while Chennai have no fitness concerns and are likely to field the same side that won them their last two knockout games, Kolkata are sweating over the availability of Lakshmipathy Balaji.

The tall fast bowler picked up a hamstring injury in the qualifier, and as the only Indian seamer in their first-choice XI his presence is key. Should he fail to recover then a couple of enforced changes would be in the offing. Meanwhile Manoj Tiwary is expected to get over his hamstring complaint to return to the Kolkata line-up.

<b>Key Men

Chennai:</b> With two sides of such high quality, the final is likely to be close and so pressure will take its toll. No-one has held their nerve as well as <b>Dwayne Bravo</b> in tight situations though, and he could be called on to make the difference at the end of the Super Kings' innings.

<b>Kolkata:</b> The subtle variations in <b>Sunil Narine</b>'s bowling have been a joy to watch, unless you've been standing at the other end of the pitch with a bat in your hand. He's taken 24 wickets, and averaged less than a run a ball over the course of this season. Chennai might do well to just see him out and target the other bowlers in the Kolkata line-up.

<b>Prediction:</b> This is a really tight one to call, but <b>Kolkata</b> have already won at the Chepauk this season so the ground won't hold any added fears for them. We're backing their consistency over Chennai's BMT.

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