Bangalore, Mumbai brace for high-octane outing
Buoyed by their sensational last-ball victory over Chennai Super Kings, a keyed up Mumbai Indians take on Royal Challengers Bangalore in a crucial Indian Premier League game, in Mumbai, on Wednesday.
While Mumbai Indians have 14 points from 11 matches, RCB trail them by three points, having played the same number of games ahead of the high-octane first leg clash.
While Mumbai Indians stopped the Super Kings in their tracks after new recruit Dwayne Smith smashed Ben Hilfenhaus for a six and two fours off the last three balls, RCB were no less impressive in pulling off a thrilling victory over Deccan Chargers.AB de Villiers's 17-ball unbeaten 47 swung the game RCB's way. He and in-form batsman Chris Gayle are a major threat to Mumbai's hopes of pulling off their fourth straight victory.
Image: RCB's Daniel Vettori with teammate Chris Gayle
RCB will depend on batsmen to come good
A victory for Mumbai will boost the points tally to 16 with four games left and help them go level with Delhi Daredevils, albeit with one game less in hand.
But, more importantly, it will ease the pressure enormously from their shoulders in the red-hot race to get to the last four.
A setback for last year's runners-up Royal Challengers Bangalore will put them under the same sort of difficulties that are being faced by two-time holders Chennai Super Kings following their defeat to Mumbai Indians.
In batting, RCB have been well-served by left-handed West Indian powerhouse Gayle (433 runs from 10 games) at the top, and classy right-handed South African de Villiers (292 from 11 games), who can switch-hit powerfully to spoil the spinners' plans.
These two batsmen, averaging 48-plus, have shouldered the responsibility of propping up the Bangalore batting admirably in which another key member -- India star Virat Kohli -- has, unfortunately, not lived up to the high expectations.Tilakkaratne Dilshan has settled in the top order well and RCB will be depending a lot on the overseas trio and Kohli in batting against the varied Mumbai attack, spearheaded by speedster Lasith Malinga.
Image: Chris Gayle
Zaheer's contribution good so far
The big worry for RCB is the Kohli's lack of form. He has scored just 201 runs from 11 games. Mayank Agarwal and Saurabh Tiwary have also not made any significant contribution.
In bowling, RCB have Zaheer Khan and R Vinay Kumar as the leading wicket-takers, but have not used Muthiah Muralitharan -- who has taken eight wickets from five games -- to the extent expected. He played in the previous game after a lengthy gap.
Left-arm Indian pace spearhead Zaheer's battle with his Mumbai city mate and Mumbai opener Sachin Tendulkar should liven up the proceedings in front of what is going to be another sell-out crowd.
RCB skipper Daniel Vettori (5 wickets from 9 games) has struggled to take wickets, but can pose a challenge to the Mumbai batsmen with his vast experience, while the team has the option to field fellow-left arm spinner K P Appanna.
With two wins and as many losses, along with a split points verdict against Super Kings in their last five games, RCB seem to have got their campaign back on track and a victory over Mumbai Indians will improve their qualifying hopes.
Image: Zaheer Khan
Malinga will be a major threat for Bangalore
Mumbai Indians are on a roll, having beaten Deccan Chargers at home, Pune Warriors away and Chennai Super Kings in their backyard in successive games.
What was most heartening for them was Tendulkar regaining touch against the Super Kings. He played a superb innings of 74 off 44 balls.
Another pleasing fact for Mumbai is the inclusion of Smith in the squad. The Caribbean all-rounder delivered the knock-out blow to the Super Kings in the final over with an unbeaten 9-ball 24 and the innings has cemented his place in the eleven.
Malinga, who has emerged as the leading wicket-taker in the competition after the game against Chennai Super Kings, is the major threat for the Bangalore batsmen with his ability to bowl effectively as first or second change and at the death by using his inch-perfect yorkers.
Skipper Harbhajan Singh has also sprung back to his much-vaunted form and R P Singh too bowled well against the Super Kings, but a question mark remains over Munaf Patel, who has gone for plenty in his last few games.
The support bowling from Robin Peterson and Smith did not measure up to the expected levels against the Super Kings and the former might have to surrender his place if Kieron Pollard returns after recovering from his right shoulder injury.
The teams (from):
Mumbai Indians: Harbhajan Singh (C), Sachin Tendulkar, Abu Nechim, Amitize Singh, Aiden Blizzard, James Franklin, Kieron Pollard, Ambati Rayudu, Y Chahal, Clint McKay, Herschelle Gibbs, Davy Jacobs, Richard Levi, Dwayne Smith, Dinesh Karthik, Dhawal Kulkarni, K Yadav, Lasith Malinga, Sushant Marathe, Pragyan Ojha, Munaf Patel, Robin Peterson, Sujit Nayak, Rohit Sharma, Suryakumar Yadav, Jaydev Shah, Rudra Pratap Singh, T Suman, Pawan Suyal, Aditya Tare, Apporva Wankhede.
Royal Challengers Bangalore: Daniel Vettori (C), Mayank Agarwal, KP Appanna, Prashanth Parameswaran, Arun Karthik, Raju Bhatkal, AB de Villiers, Tillakaratne Dilshan, Chris Gayle, Mohammad Kaif, Abrar Kazi, Zaheer Khan, Virat Kohli, Charl Langeveldt, Andrew McDonald, Abhimanyu Mithun, Muttiah Muralitharan, Karun Nair, Dirk Nannes, M Gautam, Ryan Ninan, Asad Pathan, Luke Pomerscback, Harshal Patel, Asad Pathan, Cheteshwar Pujara, Rilee Rossouw, Jamaluddin Syed Mohammad, S Thiyagarajan, Saurabh Tiwary, R Vinay Kumar, Vijay Zol.
Image: Lasith Malinga with Anbati Rayudu