Virat Kohli’s inspirational leadership for Royal Challengers Bangalore will be up against the brute force with which has steered Sunrisers Hyderabad when the two teams, eyeing their maiden IPL title, square off in a high-intensity summit clash in Bengaluru on Sunday.
RCB, however, will have a slight advantage over Sunrisers as they have the experience of playing in an IPL final twice in the past — 2009 and 2011, but on both occasions, they had finished runners-up.
Sunrisers’ best finish was a play-off berth which they managed in their debut season in 2013.
RCB witnessed a topsy-turvy campaign initially and were in a real spot of bother at one stage. They needed to win their last four games to make it to the play-offs and the Bangalore outfit didn’t just achieve that but also recorded their first straight win to get a shot at the final for a third time.
The momentum with them, RCB would be determined to make the opportunity count by winning the coveted T20 tournament, having missed the chance twice in the past.
RCB struck form just at the right time and and dished out five clinical performances to beat the 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 Qualifier 1 to seal their place in the title clash.
Kohli and AB de Villiers have been the cynosure of all eyes for RCB with their batsmanship.
Kohli has also been an impressive captain and infused confidence in the team after a disappointing start. At a time when qualifying for the play-offs looked a distant dream for RCB, Kohli made it possible with his glorious batting and leadership qualities.
Without doubt, Kohli seems to be enjoying the best form of his career so far and is the highest run-getter in the tournament, amassing 919 runs from 15 games, which includes six fifties and four centuries with 113 being his highest score.
De Villiers, on the other hand, is the third highest scorer in the league with 682 runs under his belt with, including one century and six half-centuries.
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In fact, in the Qualifier 1 at the Chinnaswamy stadium here, RCB, while chasing 159 for the win, were struggling at 29 for five at one stage with Kohli witnessing a rare failure this season.
But then stepped in De Villiers and the South African steered RCB through with a classic unbeaten 79. He put on match-winning 91 runs for the seventh wicket with Iqbal Abdullah (33) to take his side into the final.
Besides Kohli and De Villiers, the big-hitting Chris Gayle would also be eyeing a big knock tomorrow after indicating his return to form in the last few games.
Credit for RCB’s turnaround should also go to the team’s not-so-experienced bowling attack, which was under fire for major part of the tournament.
RCB’s turnaround in bowling was made possible by leg-spinner Yuzvendra Chahal, who is the second highest wicket-taker in the tournament with 20 scalps from 12 games.
The late entry of Chris Jordon also helped RCB in containing their rivals in the death overs.
Australian Shane Watson too has served the team well with the ball, picking up 20 wickets from 15 games so far this season.
Tomorrow’s match would give RCB an opportunity to avenge their 15-run loss to Sunrisers in the last clash between the two teams.
Just like RCB, Sunrisers too would be banking on their skipper Warner, who led from the front to ensure a maiden IPL final berth for the Hyderabad outfit.
Sunrisers will be 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 Qualifier 2.
Warner has been in explosive form for Sunrisers. He is leading by example and has so far amassed 779 runs from 16 games with eight fifties, next only to Kohli in the run-getters’ list in IPL 9. The match-winning 93 not out against Lions in the Qualifier 2 last night is Warner’s highest score.
Warner produced a majestic 93 to single-handedly lead Sunrisers Hyderabad into the IPL final by securing a four-wicket win over Lions.
Chasing a tricky 163, Sunrisers overhauled the target with four balls to spare as Warner anchored the chase with his responsible 58-ball knock, embellished with 11 four and three sixes.
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.
But it is Sunrisers bowling which has struck gold for the team this season.
In fact, it won’t be wrong to say that tomorrow’s match will be a contest between RCB’s batting and Sunrisers bowling unit.
Sunrisers will be relying heavily on its pacers, who played a stellar role in defeating RCB here in the league stage, to deliver the goods tomorrow.
Seamer Bhuvneshwar Kumar seemed to have found his mojo back and 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.
And Sunrisers would be hopeful that Rahman turns up fit for tomorrow’s game after sitting out of last night’s match owing to a hamstring niggle.
The duo along with Barinder Sran has not let Sunrsiers feel the absence of veteran Ashish Nehra, who left midway to undergo a knee surgery.
The Teams (from):
Royal Challengers Bangalore: Virat Kohli (C), Chris Gayle, AB de Villiers, Shane Watson, KL Rahul, Sachin Baby, Varun Aaron, Abu Nechim, Sreenath Aravind, Stuart Binny, Yuzvendra Chahal, Travis Head, Iqbal Abdullah, Kedar Jadhav, Chris Jordan, David Wiese, Akshay Karnewar, Sarfaraz Khan, Vikramjeet Malik, Mandeep Singh, Parveez Rasool, Harshal Patel, Kane Richardson, Tabraiz Shamshi, Vikas Tokas, Praveen Dubey.
Sunrisers Hyderabad: David Warner (C), Shikhar Dhawan, Yuvraj Singh, Moises Henriques, Eoin Morgan, Deepak Hooda, Naman Ojha, Karn Sharma, Mustafizur Rahman, Bhuvneshwar Kumar, Barinder Sran, Trent Boult, Ben Cutting, Kane Williamson, Ashish Reddy, Ricky Bhui, Bipul Sharma, Siddarth Kaul, Abhimanyu Mithun, Vijay Shankar, T Suman, Aditya Tare.