Battle of nerves set to unfold

Preview: It will be RCB's batting against the skills of the Sunrisers' bowlers in the title decider tonight
Last Updated : 28 May 2016, 19:14 IST
Last Updated : 28 May 2016, 19:14 IST

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With the Royal Challengers Bangalore making it to the final at their home venue, the demand for tickets has reached a feverish pitch. Though the official sale of tickets is over, the mad scramble for complimentary passes was driving the Karnataka State Cricket Association officials crazy even on the eve of the IPL-9 summit clash.

Come Sunday, there won’t be a single seat that will be left unoccupied at the Chinnaswamy stadium as Bengaluru’s favourite sons take on Sunrisers Hyderabad in a bid to claim their maiden title in their third final in nine editions. Will they be third time lucky? We will know by Sunday night if the rain, for which there is a forecast, stays away.

It’s a mere coincidence that the two teams who kicked off their IPL-9 campaign at this very venue have taken contrasting routes to set up the final here. Sunrisers began on a losing note to Challengers about six weeks ago before becoming one of the first two teams to qualify for the play-offs. Challengers, on the other hand, weren’t sure of making the last-four cut until their final league game against Delhi Daredevils.

The defeats in their last two league games meant that Sunrisers finished third on the table while Challengers, who too had 16 points, finished second due to better net run rate. A win in the Qualifier 1 took Challengers to the final while Sunrisers had to ward off Kolkata Knight Riders and Gujarat Lions in the Eliminator and Qualifier 2 to earn a shot at the title. While technically it’s the first final for Sunrisers, their predecessors – Deccan Chargers – had emerged champions in 2009; incidentally, after beating Challengers in the second edition in South Africa.

Come to think of it, the teams from Hyderabad have inflicted considerable heart-burn on RCB who had lost out on a play-off berth on 2012 after losing a low-scoring final league game at Uppal after starting favourites. In Sunday’s final too, RCB start favourites but not certainly overwhelming.

Not unlike Virat Kohli, who has been outstanding with the bat this season, David Warner too has led Sunrisers from the front; his unbeaten 93 powering SRH to final in Qualifier 2 when Lions held all the aces. But unlike RCB, who are not entirely dependent on Kohli to deliver goods for them, SRH’s batting has struggled whenever Warner has failed to fire. With 919 runs, Kohli may be head and shoulders above the rest but AB de Villiers, KL Rahul and to an extent Chris Gayle have played more than a handy role. The win against Lions in Qualifier 1 epitomised RCB’s depth and determination as they rallied to win from being 29/5 in a chase of 159.

That said SRH bowling will perhaps provide RCB the biggest test yet.

The likes of Bhuvneshwar Kumar, the Purple Cap holder for most wickets, Barinder Sran and Mustafizur Rahman have been impressive and despite losing Ashish Nehra to knee injury, they have packed enough sting in their attack. Rahman didn’t play the second qualifier due to a side hamstring injury and if he doesn’t recover in time, Trent Boult may get his second match of the season.

Just as RCB’s bowling struggled with their attack for most part of the season, SRH middle-order has often let them down. Though Yuvraj Singh has come up with a couple of useful cameos, the middle appears too brittle especially when Warner falls cheaply. Deepak Hooda and Naman Ojha have done little to justify the long rope given to them and SRH’s persistence with them reflects their lack of bench strength.

It’s safe to say that it will be a fascinating contest between RCB, the batting power house, and SRH, boasting arguably the best attack in the league.

Published 28 May 2016, 19:14 IST

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