Red-hot RCB hold all the aces

Table toppers bank on excellent form of top order against Chennai

Red-hot RCB hold all the aces

Royal Challengers batsman Jaques Kallis plays a shot against Mumbai Indians during the Indian Premier League-3 match at the Brabourne Stadium in Mumbai on Saturday. PTI

It hasn’t been the best of times for the Chennai Super Kings, in diirect contrast to the Royal Challengers Bangalore, who haven’t always had it this good.

Anil Kumble’s men hold all the aces as they square off against the embattled Super Kings in front of their adoring, deep-throated fans, even if the Twenty20 game doesn’t encourage favourite-picking with any great certainty.

The Challengers’ stirring run of three successive victories that has catapulted them to the top of the IPL standings has inevitably owed its origin to collective effort with Jacques Kallis the one constant, stand-out performer. Kallis’ brilliance apart, the one other notable feature has been the strength in depth of their Indian contingent.

Every IPL captain has stressed the importance of home players making an impact, and no one has exemplified the virtues of Indian contribution better than the Challengers. Man for man, Kumble’s side possesses some of the finest domestic talent, a vibrant mix of irrepressible youth and irreplaceable experience.

So exceptional have Manish Pandey, Robin Uthappa and Virat Kohli been at the top of the order that the Challengers’ batting hasn’t gone beyond number four for the most part. Indeed, Rahul Dravid has batted just once, a further pointer to the consistency and the potency of a batting line-up that has an all-season, all-condition look about it.

The young Indian trio has allowed Kallis to go about his business with little fuss. The Protean all-rounder has responded in spectacular fashion, undefeated after four innings and topping the run-scorers’ chart with 264 runs. In the Kallis school of thought, there is no such thing as the law of averages; come to think of it, for all the runs he has scored this season, he doesn’t have an average yet!

The flip side of it all is that men like Eoin Morgan, Dravid and Mark Boucher have hardly had game-time with the bat and therefore run the risk of being a tad rusty when push comes to shove, but if the top-four continues to bat like it has been, few will be complaining.

Home talent has held its own with the ball as well, Kumble special as ever and Praveen Kumar and R Vinay Kumar acquitting themselves with great credit. With Dale Steyn hitting his straps and Kallis as probing as ever, the Challengers have often employed only the five specialist bowlers, a ploy that has worked wonders to date.

A fourth consecutive victory isn’t in the realms of the fantastic. After all, the Super Kings are without regular skipper Mahendra Singh Dhoni, might have to contend with Justin Kemp sitting out with a back injury, and are coming off a demoralising ‘Super Over’ loss to the Kings XI in a contest they should have sewn up most comfortably.

Saying that, Suresh Raina’s lads will be no pushovers. Mongoose or not, Matthew Hayden is as dangerous as ever, while Raina himself is in fine touch. The depth, though, isn’t quite obvious, and that could prove the decisive difference.

Teams (from):

Royal Challengers Bangalore: Anil Kumble (capt), Jacques Kallis, Manish Pandey, Robin Uthappa, Virat Kohli, Eoin Morgan, Rahul Dravid, Mark Boucher, Praveen Kumar, R Vinay Kumar, Dale Steyn, A Mithun, Dillon du Preez, Shreevats Goswami, Roelof van der Merwe, B Akhil.

Chennai Super Kings: Suresh Raina (capt), Matthew Hayden, Parthiv Patel, S Badrinath, Murali Vijay, Justin Kemp, Albie Morkel, R Ashwin, Lakshmipathi Balaji, Manpreet Singh Gony, Muttiah Muralitharan, Joginder Singh, Shadab Jakati, Hemang Badani, KB Arun Karthik, Makhaya Ntini, Thisara Perera, Thilan Thushara, Sudeep Tyagi.

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