IPL: Will Chennai trump RCB in battle of equals?
Two aggressive and in-form sides will clash in a battle of equals when former champions Chennai Super Kings face off against Royal Challengers Bangalore in a IPL clash in Chennai on Saturday.
It would be a contest on even keel as both the teams are coming off big wins. While Chennai thrashed Kings XI Punjab by 10 wickets, RCB defeated defending champions Kolkata Knight Riders by eight wickets in their previous matches.
Although RCB and CSK seem evenly-matched on paper, the presence of Chris Gayle in the Bangalore team could prove to be the decisive factor.
Gayle yet again proved his mettle by striking an unbeaten 85 to ensure a convincing victory for RCB against KKR.
Such was the ferocity of the 'Gayle storm' that RCB knocked off the target with 15 balls to spare. It was the third win for RCB in four matches. The imposing Jamaican, who has been in prolific touch, got his runs off only 50 deliveries hitting four boundaries and as many as nine sixes.
It is therefore hardly a surprise that Gayle is leading the 'Maximum Sixes' list with 14 over-boundaries.
With good support from skipper Virat Kohli and South African swashbuckler A B de Villiers, Gayle makes the RCB line-up look intimidating.
Image: Chennai Super Kings players celebrate
Hussey, Vijay in good form
Chennai's batting also has quite a few good-hitters with opener Michael Hussey shining in their previous match.
Hussey slammed a blistering 54-ball 86 as Chennai rolled over Kings XI Punjab by 10 wickets.
Also in good form is Murali Vijay, who got a fifty in the previous match. The two-time former champions have come back quite strongly after losing their opening match to Mumbai Indians.
Add to this skipper Mahendra Singh Dhoni, all-rounder Dwayne Bravo, who has been an asset with the ball as well, and Suresh Raina and Chennai's batting line-up looks good enough.
The team management would also want useful contributions from S Badrinath and Ravindra Jadeja lower down the order.
There is still some suspense on whether South African all-rounder Albie Morkel, who twisted his ankle while bowling in the finals of the domestic Twenty 20 competition in South Africa, would play despite being cleared after precautionary scans.
Image: Michael Hussey
RCB's bowling strong despite Zaheer's absence
On the bowling front, RCB's attack has been delivering the goods despite missing pace spearhead Zaheer Khan. Vinay Kumar has led the pack admirably and the spinners, Muttiah Muralitharan and Murali Karthik, are also quite handful.
For CSK, Australian pacer Ben Laughlin and Ankit Rajpoot have been impressive but off-spinner R Ashwin would be the key bowler for the hosts.
Chennai Super Kings: MS Dhoni (c/wk), Srikkanth Anirudha Baba Aparajith, Ravichandran Ashwin, Subramaniam Badrinath, Dwayne Bravo, Akila Dananjaya, Faf du Plessis, Ben Hilfenhaus, Jason Holder, Michael Hussey, Imtiaz Ahmed, Ravindra Jadeja, Shadab Jakati, R Karthikeyan, Nuwan Kulasekara, Ben Laughlin, Ronit More, Albie Morkel, Chris Morris, Dirk Nannes, Suresh Raina, Ankit Rajpoot, Wriddhiman Saha (wk), Vijay Shankar, Mohit Sharma, Murali Vijay.
Royal Challengers Bangalore: Virat Kohli (captain), Abhimanyu Mithun, Abhinav Mukund, Andrew McDonald, Chateshwar Pujara, Christopher Barnwell, Daniel Vettori, Harshal Patel, KP Appanna, Moises Henriques, Chris Gayle, Tilkaratne Dilshan, Mayank Agarwal, Daniel Christian, Karun Nair, Arun Karthik, J Unadkat, Vinay Kumar, Muttiah Muralitharan, Murali Kartik, Pankaj Singh and P Prasanth.
Image: RCB's Vinay Kumar speaks with coach Ray Jennings