Oh, what a journey it has been! From spending two years in the wilderness to returning with aplomb in the 2018 IPL, Chennai Super Kings have come a full circle and how! They bulldozed their way to the finals of the Indian Premier League season, beating the table toppers in the league phase, Sunrisers Hyderabad, thrice enroute.

As they set foot at the Wankhede on Sunday, they face the same team a fourth time in two months knowing that they clearly hold the edge. The MS Dhoni-led outfit’s strength has been an all-round performance from their team which few gave a chance before the start of the season.

From Ambati Rayudu to Faf du Plessis to Lungi Ngidi, one or the other has stood up for CSK when the team needed them. On the other hand, Sunrisers Hyderabad have relied on a handful of players, most notably their two prolific run scorers, Kane Williamson and Shikhar Dhawan.

Aside from the two daunting batsmen, Sunrisers seem to have little in terms of batting and that right there could decide the finals. Shakib-al-Hasan's no show with the bat combined with a fragile lower middle-order comprising Yusuf Pathan and Carlos Brathwaite make them vulnerable.

However, making amends for all of them has been Rashid Khan. He single-handedly took them to the finals beating Kolkata Knight Riders at their backyard in Eden and seems to have rediscovered the mojo that their season began with. But if Sunrisers need to upset the Super Kings, they need the Bhuvneshwars and Kauls to join Rashid in restricting the Chennai batsmen. But finals could just change in the blink of an eye, so would you place your money on CSK without thinking twice? Unlikely.

The last time these two teams played at Mumbai was less than a week ago and seamers from either side exploited the early movement on offer to shatter the top order. Conditions are likely to remain similar although the quick outfield could come into play once the first few overs are negated. With a better hold of their opposition, scores could go higher than what they did the last time.

Probable XIs

Chennai Super Kings

The Super Kings are likely to go in unchanged with Faf du Plessis impressing as the opener. He will continue to open with Rayudu pushed to no.4 in the batting line-up. The bowling attack should also remain intact.

Faf du Plessis, Shane Watson, Suresh Raina, Ambati Rayudu, MS Dhoni (c and wk), Dwyane Bravo, Ravindra Jadeja, Deepak Chahar, Harbhajan Singh, Shardul Thakur, Lungi Ngidi

Sunrisers Hyderabad

The Williamson-led outfit made three changes in their play-off match against Kolkata Knight Riders and despite their win, it can't really be said the swaps paid off. Sitting out Manish Pandey was a huge decision and given Chennai's bowling attack and Pandey's big match temperament, he could return to the playing XI at the expense of Deepak Hooda. Khaleel Ahmed should also make way for Sandeep Sharma on a surface which aids swing early on.

Shikhar Dhawan, Wriddhiman Saha, Kane Williamson, Manish Pandey, Shakib-al-Hasan, Yusuf Pathan, Carlos Brathwaite, Rashid Khan, Bhuvneshwar Kumar, Siddharth Kaul, Sandeep Sharma

Head to Head battles

With tight competition between the two sides, one on one player battles could decide the contest and given the rivalry between the two, there is no shortage of face-offs.

Lungi Ngidi vs Shikhar Dhawan

Ngidi's height and bounce coupled with Dhawan's compulsive hooking could make for an interesting battle. The South African seamer has been revolutionary this season for Chennai Super Kings and with the true bounce at the Wankhede, could make Dhawan sweat. That said, the southpaw is not short of confidence and is a big match player. His readiness to attack early could work well at the Wankhede if it stays true to its reputation.

Rashid Khan vs MS Dhoni

MS Dhoni, forever the firefighter in a crisis, appeared completely flummoxed by Rashid Khan and missed a googly to be cleaned up the Afghan spinner. As they gear up to meet again, a buoyed Rashid Khan, after his all-round show against KKR the other night, would be keen to retain his wood over Dhoni. The Chennai skipper, on the other hand, had a superb IPL and could hold the key for the favourites if they are to keep Rashid at bay.

Possible strategies

Chennai Super Kings could gamble with giving an over with the new ball to Shane Watson. The Aussie is a good exponent of swing and with the early movement on offer could be a handy third wheel to Lungi Ngidi and Deepak Chahar.

Sunrisers Hyderabad might ponder opening with Kane Williamson instead of Wriddhiman Saha. The wicket-keeper batsman has consumed a lot of balls early on and hasn't gotten going either. Williamson, meanwhile, has been spectacular as an opener and hasn't been getting as much time playing at 3. If they are to win the finals, they might need to open with Williamson.