A final chance for RCB, CSK

A final chance for RCB, CSK

Fresh pitch at the JSCA stadium adds spice to the Qualifier 2 contest tonight

A final chance for RCB, CSK

 Are there more exciting top three batsmen in the Indian Premier League than the Royal Challengers Bangalore’s Chris Gayle, Virat Kohli and AB de Villiers?

In their pomp, Brendon McCullum, now in England doing the national duty, Dwayne Smith and Suresh Raina of the Chennai Super Kings can come close but when it comes to generating sheer excitement, few can match the Bangalore trio. Gayle, the destroyer, Kohli the stylist and de Villiers the innovator have lit up the IPL with their contrasting yet complementary batting styles.

And on Wednesday in Pune, where two of the triumvirate – Kohli and Gayle – were back in the dugout early, de Villiers took them to a winning position, with no little help from the young Mandeep Singh, with a batting display that had everyone in the stadium eating out of his hands in the Eliminator against the Rajasthan Royals.

Their abundant flair has won Royal Challengers thousands of fans even outside their franchise base. Will that flamboyance be enough for them to beat the methodical Super Kings in Qualifier 2 here at the JSCA Stadium on Friday to book a berth in the final against Mumbai Indians? The Super Kings should feel at home because it’s MS Dhoni’s hometown and doubtless, there will be more of yellow than red and gold in the stands. The skipper, however, knows his team will need more than just the crowd support to beat Royal Challengers for the third time this season.

Though Super Kings topped the league with 18 points, they haven’t looked the force they have come to be associated with. There are quite a few chinks that have stood exposed at different stages of this edition. While they will be certainly missing the breezy McCullum at the top of the order, Raina has had an average season by his standards. Ravindra Jadeja has done precious little be it with the ball or the bat. The glaring shortcoming, however, has been the lack of runs from skipper MS Dhoni. The right-hander has played a couple of cameos but he hasn’t been able to impose himself. While he still remains a prized scalp, you can sense bowlers appearing less intimidated by him now.  

The Super Kings’ bowling, though it came apart against the Mumbai Indians in Qualifier 1, has both the skill and the variety to reign in the Challengers’ batsmen. Left-arm paceman Ashish Nehra and the economical off-spinner R Ashwin have been outstanding while the likes of Dwayne Bravo, league’s leading wicket-taker, and Mohit Sharma have often provided breakthroughs at the right time. And these bowlers are backed up by the best fielding unit in IPL. Come to think of it, it was this electric fielding – both catching and out cricket – that made a big difference in the two previous matches these two sides clashed.

The Royal Challengers surely will have learnt their lessons by those two defeats, on both occasions faltering while chasing targets. Being a knockout match, it’s no secret that both teams would want to put runs on the board rather than face the pressure of it. If Challengers bring their best to the table, Super Kings won’t be unstoppable. CSK have looked vulnerable and the key will be to remain free of pressure because that’s what RCB have succumbed to in the previous two matches against their neighbours.

Ranchi, hosting its first and only match of this edition, will be sporting a fresh wicket and it will be interesting to see how it behaves. With S Arvind’s return bolstering their attack, RCB should back themselves to top CSK batsmen.  

Menwhocanmakethe difference tonight

Virat Kohli 

The Royal Challengers’ skipper has been in good form and he has this great desire to perform against better attacks. He got starts against CSK in both the previous matches but failed to take the team home. With tricky bowlers like R Ashwin and Ashish Nehra in CSK’s ranks, RCB will be banking on Kohli to neutralise their effect. With 493 runs to his credit, Kohli would be looking to add substantially to that tally.

S Arvind

The Karnataka seamer has a knack to get wickets the moment he comes back into action. Coming in as a replacement for injured Adam Milne, the left-arm paceman took a four-for against Kings XI Punjab and after an injury-forced break, he returned to take two vital wickets against Rajasthan Royals in the Eliminator, putting RCB on path to victory. Don’t be surprised if he turns out to be Kohli’s trump card again.

Faf du Plessis

He is CSK’s man for crisis situations. Though he hasn’t exactly set the tournament on fire, he has shown more than glimpses of his brilliance while stacking up 358 runs, the second highest for CSK behind Brendon McCullum’s 436. His ability to switch games, from anchoring to accelerating, makes him a dangerous proposition against any attack. Throw in his excellent fielding skills, he will be the key to CSK’s fortunes.

R Ashwin

With the best economy rate (5.87 runs per over) for those who have bowled 10 or more overs in this edition, the off-spinner will have a key role to play against RCB’s powerful batting line-up. The Chennai man has had some success against the big-hiting Bangalore opener Chris Gayle in the Indian Premier League and he can be too wily against some of the inexperienced batsmen in RCB’s middle-order.