Bangalore, Hyderabad in hunt for maiden IPL crown

Bengaluru: With just over 24 hours to go for the much-awaited Indian Premier League (IPL) summit clash, all eyes will be on the M. Chinnaswamy Stadium which will host the exciting battle between Royal Challengers Bangalore (RCB) and Sunrisers Hyderabad (SRH) here.

Led by an inspirational Virat Kohli, RCB will be hoping to get the monkey off their back after failing to win in both their previous attempts — 2009 and 2011 — and also relish the opportunity of bagging their maiden IPL trophy in front of a vociferous home crowd.

On the other hand, having managed to reach the play-offs just once in their debut season in 2013, Hyderabad will bank on their bowling prowess and skipper David Warner, who single-handedly pulled off an improbable four-wicket victory against Gujarat Lions in the second qualifier at the Ferozeshah Kotla Stadium on Friday.

Struggling to find consistency in the league phase, Bangalore made a stunning comeback to register five consecutive wins before reaching their third final. RCB dished out five clinical performances to beat the Gujarat Lions (by 144 runs), Kolkata Knight Riders (by 9 wickets), Kings XI Punjab (by 82 runs D/L method), Delhi Daredevils (by 6 wickets) and Gujarat (by 4 wickets) again in the first Qualifier to seal their place in the title clash.

RCB’s success story centred around skipper Kohli and AB de VIlliers’s glorious run with the willow. With 919 runs under his belt, Kohli has amassed four centuries and six fifties in this edition so far to be the highest run-getter while the South African is the third highest scorer in the league with 682 runs, including one century and six half-centuries.

After struggling to strike form in the early stages of the tournament, Kohli’s opening partner Chris Gayle has found his touch at the right juncture while young keeper-batsman Lokesh Rahul has been a revelation for the team in this edition.

Despite all-rounder Shane Watson not getting much opportunity to show his prowess with the willow in the 15 matches, the veteran Australian has led the side’s weakened bowling unit with 20 wickets so far alongwith young leg-spinner Yuzvendra Chahal who also has as many wickets but from 12 games. England’s Chris Jordon has also joined the party in helping RCB in containing their rivals in the death overs.

Sunday’s match would also give RCB an opportunity to avenge their 15-run loss to Sunrisers in the last clash between the two teams.

On the flip side, coming into the final on the back of two high profile wins — first against two-time champions Kolkata Knight Riders by 22 runs in the eliminator and then against Lions in the second qualifier, the visitors will go all out to clinch their maiden trophy.

Like their rivals, the visitors have also found an inspiring leader in Warner, who is next to Kohli to be the second highest run-getter with 779 runs from 16 games including eight fifties so far.

Besides Warner, Sunrisers also have the likes of Shikhar Dhawan (473 runs), the experienced Yuvraj Singh, Moises Henriques, Deepak Hooda, Naman Ojha and big-hitting all-rounder Ben Cutting in the batting department.

More than the batting, the side’s pace bowling strength has been a challenge for the opposition in this edition.

Despite losing veteran Ashish Nehra midway due to an injury, young pacer Bhuvneshwar Kumar is leading the wicket-takers’ chart with 23 wickets from 16 games, while Bangladeshi pacer Mustafizur Rahman (16 wickets from 15 matches), has also lived up to his skipper’s expectations whenever he has been handed the ball.

Sunrisers will be hoping Rahman turns up fit for Sunday’s game after sitting out the second qualifier owing to a hamstring niggle.

Left-arm pacer Barinder Sran has also come of age in the limited opportunities he has had while left-arm spinner Bipul sharma will look to be impressive again in beating the likes of Kohli, Gayle and de Villiers.

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Free Press Journal