Royal Challengers Bangalore will take on Chennai Super Kings in the second qualifier of IPL 2015, at Ranchi on Friday, to decide who plays Mumbai Indians in the final on Sunday at Kolkata. Both teams go into the match having experienced contrasting fortunes in their previous encounter. Two-time champions Chennai were easily overcome by Mumbai in the first qualifier as MS Dhoni's men failed to deliver the goods. Since they finished first in the league stage, they have another chance to claim a place in the final. It wouldn't be easy though as Bangalore would be all pumped up having absolutely thrashed Rajasthan Royals in the eliminator. Chennai can, however, fall back on their previous experience under such tough circumstances.
Match: Chennai Super Kings vs Royal Challengers Bangalore, Qualifier 2 at Ranchi
Time: Match begins at 8PM IST | 14:30 GMT
It is clear by now that Bangalore's fortunes are heavily attached to how their big three perform namely -- Virat Kohli, Chris Gayle and AB de Villiers. Against Rajasthan, it was the South African captain's turn to shine. He played a brilliant innings to steer the team towards victory. Bangalore would be hoping that skipper Kohli and Gayle come to the party against Chennai. Whenever the duo has fired, the team has rarely lost. And, Bangalore would be pleased that both of them have been in very good form, in fact, all three of them, de Villiers included. And so, even though opponents have known at the start who the danger players are, they have still found themselves in trouble as someone among the big three has constantly fired. This needs to continue against Chennai.
While Gayle, Kohli and de Villiers and Kohli have clearly been the key, Bangalore cannot underestimate the efforts of Mandeep Singh. Against Rajasthan, he played the perfect support role to de Villiers. But, not only did he give the South African good company, he also played a match-defining knock on his own. Mandeep is a highly talented player in his own right and, in this season, he has only reiterated the same. His knock against KKR in a rain-shortened match won Bangalore crucial points. In the bowling, Bangalore would want Mitchell Starc back among the wickets. He has struggled a bit in the last two games. S. Aravind, Harshal Patel and David Wiese however had a good last game, and that would please the team.
Although Chennai were miserable in the last match, they would know deep down that it wasn't their kind of performance. With the past experience of such tense situations, they would look to play to potential again. Surely, Brendon McCullum would be missed, but they will have to make do with what they have in their armoury. Chennai would be hoping that the struggling opening pair of Dwayne Smith and Michael Hussey strike form against Bangalore. In such a scenario, the task for the team would become so much easier. Smith began the tournament incredibly well, but has been short of runs lately, which has hurt the team. With McCullum gone, Smith has an added responsibility to get among the runs.
A few other names in the team also need to stand up and deliver. Suresh Raina, one of the most successful IPL players ever, is yet to perform to potential. But, if he can rise to the occasion in the last two games, whatever he had done earlier would count for little. Faf du Plessis has been their most consistent batsman this year, and while that is a good sign for Chennai, even he needs to be doing more in terms of forcing the pace. Runs from the likes of MS Dhoni, Dwayne Bravo and Ravindra Jadeja, all of whom failed against Mumbai would definitely help. In the bowling, again Bravo would be the key with his variations. But, Ashish Nehra has also done well, and has been nicely supported by Mohit Sharma. Ravichandran Ashwin continues to impress as the main spinner. Chennai have a definite advantage in the bowling, but Bangalore have the x-factor.
--By A Cricket Analyst