It will be great from India’s point of view that at least one of the IPL teams will make it to the summit clash of the Champions League T20. That might be either the Chennai Super Kings or the Bangalore Royal Challengers, depending on who gets the better of the other in the first semi-final at Durban. Both teams are equally matched and well-balanced, a fact their head-to-head record demonstrates – Bangalore have won four and Chennai three. And so, another tight contest can be expected on the big Friday.
Interestingly, both teams have charted a similar path enroute to get to the last four. It was only a victory in their final league game that got them through. However, the mistakes can’t be repeated now as the tournament heads into the knockout stage. It would be difficult to say who holds the advantage since both Bangalore and Chennai have varied strengths.
While Bangalore have a solid pace attack backed by the experienced hand of their leading spinner and skipper Anil Kumble, Chennai rely heaving on spin, with both R Ashwin and Muralitharan tasting a good amount of success. Even though the Durban pitch is expected to favour the faster men more than the slower bowlers, Ashwin and Murali are good enough to trouble the best, irrespective of the surface. And so, it might all boil down to the batting of the two sides, which boasts of rather impressive names.
There is the rock solid Rahul Dravid at the top of the order along with the rollicking Manish Pandey, who have been giving Bangalore worthy starts. And then, there is Virat Kohli, who has been scintillating down the order, notwithstanding the mixed results. The problem for Bangalore lies in between. Ross Taylor hasn’t lived up to the expectations yet. But, he is experienced enough to come good on the big day. Also, Robin Uthappa and Cameron White will get another chance to enhance their big-hitting reputation. On their day, they can be the most destructive.
If Bangalore’s batting line is imposing, Chennai need now worry. They have their own arms of giants. The experiment of Michael Hussey at the top of the order with Murali Vijay has worked nicely thus far and should continue. Another good opening stand would mean the big hitters like Raina, Dhoni and Anirudha can free their arms from the word go. And if any from the trio gets going, Bangalore’s bowlers, especially the ones short on pace like Vinay Kumar and Praveen Kumar, can be taken to the cleaners.
As if to set up everything evenly, both sides also have a South African injury problem and that too with their chief all-rounder. However, while Jacques Kallis has been ruled out of the tournament with a neck injury, Albie Morkel can still make it to Chennai’s XI provided he has recovered from his illness. In that case, it would be advantage Chennai, since Morkel will give his side better balance as compared to Bangalore.
Having weighed all permutations and combinations, a close contest seems imminent. Over to the teams to live up to the bidding.
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