Bangalore, May 21: Just a point separating them in the team standings, top-ranked Chennai Super Kings take on second-placed Royal Challengers here tomrorow in what promises to be an exciting contest between the two most consistent performers of the IPL this season.
Sitting pretty at the top of the table with 18 points from 13 games, defending champions Chennai Super Kings will be keen to sign off the league phase on a high when but an equally determined Royal Challengers Bangalore would hardly give an inch at their home turf of M Chinnaswamy stadium here. Having already qualified for the play-offs, both teams would play for pride of place.
If Super Kings win, they will top the leaderboard with 20 points. But if Royal Challengers, who have 17 points from 13 games, pull off a coup against the better organised and balanced Chennai team, then they would finish at the top with 19 points.
If RCB lose, they will either play Kolkata Knight Riders (16 from 13), Mumbai Indians (16 from 13) or Kings XI Punjab (14 from 13) in the eliminator. The winner in the Mumbai Indians versus Kolkata Knight Riders match will play CSK in qualifier.
The Mahender Singh Dhoni-led Super Kings have an edge over RCB. Their batting, which has been gaining confidence and momentum with each outing, runs deep.
Michael Hussey, Murali Vijay, Suresh Raina, Subramaniam Badrinath, Dhoni and Albie Morkel have been in good nick. The Super Kings bowling attack is possibly the best in the competition, with Doug Bollinger, Morkel and Ravichandran Ashwin being both restrictive and destructive.
But there in one phenomenon in the RCB ranks that can decimate all these positive attributes. Only if Super Kings price out Chris Gayle early in the innings can they entertain hopes of scoring another win over their southern rivals. Else, Gayle could blow all their game plans over the Bay of Bengal with his blistering stroke play. The RCB batting came apart against Kings XI Punjab when Gayle scored a blob, emphasising how heavily their batting has been dependant on their West Indian recruit. Gayle's failure saw them crashing to an ignominious 111-run defeat, snapping a seven-match winning streak. Virat Kohli and AB de Villiers too have been in rollicking form, but the rest of the RCB batting hasn't really lived up to its billing. Sourabh Tiwary and Mohammed Kaif have been prominent letdowns.
The absence of the experienced and wily Daniel Vettori and the dashing Tillakratne Dilshan has begun to be acutely felt.
If Zaheer Khan, who is recovering from a niggle, is ruled out for tomorrow's game, then RCB could well be mentally prepared to play the eliminator.
Royal Challengers Bangalore: Daniel Vettori ©, Mayank Agarwal, Tillakaratne Dilshan, Asad Pathan, Virat Kohli, AB de Villiers, Saurabh Tiwary, Cheteshwar Pujara, Johan van der Wath, Ryan Ninan, Zaheer Khan, Chris Gayle, Mohammad Kaif, Sreenath Aravind, Arun Karthik, Raju Bhatkal, ANPR Fernando, Muralidharen Gautam, Abrar Kazi, Charl Langeveldt, Abhimanyu Mithun, Luke Pomersbach, Rilee Rossouw, Jonathan Vandiar.
Chennai Super Kings: Mahendra Singh Dhoni (capt), Murali Vijay, Suresh Raina, S Badrinath, Ravichandran Ashwin, Shadab Jakati, Michael Hussey, Albie Morkel, Ben Hilfenhaus, Doug Bollinger, G Bailey, Tim Southee, F du Plessis, Suraj Randiv,Nuwan Kulasekara, Joginder Sharma, Yo Mahesh, A Mukund,Wriddhiman Saha, Scott Styris, Sudeep Tyagi, K Vasudevadas, G Vignesh. PTI