The host had an up-and-down second phase but has bounced back

Two teams that will probably face-off again within the next week, will have a dress rehearsal high on intensity in the DLF-Indian Premier League match at the Chinnaswamy Stadium here on Saturday.

Mumbai Indians' (18 points) semifinal spot is set in stone while rival Royal Challengers Bangalore (14 pts) has virtually slipped in one foot into the last four stage. With a healthy net run-rate of +0.467, Royal Challengers can crash only if Anil Kumble's men suffer an abominable defeat against Mumbai Indians.

The visitor led by the indomitable Sachin Tendulkar (542 runs), has found the right men in crunch situations. And with a bowling line-up that features the trio of Zaheer Khan, Lasith Malinga and Harbhajan Singh with 13 wickets each, Mumbai Indians might fancy its chances.

Sobering thought

However, a sobering thought will linger among Tendulkar's men. On March 20th, Royal Challengers defeated Mumbai Indians by seven wickets and the visitor will surely not take Kumble's men for granted. “We should play every match like a semifinal or a final and give our best,” said key batsman Jean-Paul Duminy.

The host, meanwhile, had an up-and-down second phase but has inevitably bounced back. A batting, which hinged heavily on the top-order led by Jacques Kallis, has also found runs through Rahul Dravid and Kevin Pietersen while Kumble, Dale Steyn and Vinay Kumar have kept the lid on rival's scoring-rates. “I want the Royal Challengers to be ruthless and we have our plans for Tendulkar,” said coach Ray Jennings.

Changes

The rival camps are also grappling with the unenviable confusion of whether to stick with the winning squads or tweak in some changes as the IPL rushes towards its climax. There were brief whispers ofTendulkar being rested but the Mumbai Indians' think-tank scoffed at it as mere rumours though Duminy did concede that the team might sport a few changes.

“The conditions could vary from tomorrow to the semifinal (at the same venue, next week) and it's an ideal opportunity for a couple of guys to get their turn,” Duminy said.The host too had rung in a few changes over the past few days. S. Sriram and Pankaj Singh had got a game each and coach Jennings said that the entire squad had trained hard and each and every player was tuned in to the call and be part of the playing eleven. “It is important to make sure we keep the flow and also understand any injuries or niggles as well as the need for rest for some of the players. We practise as a unit of 23, not just with the playing eleven. So any particular player who has practised hard has got the opportunity. We look at the wicket, the combination of the side we are playing against and if we feel that we need to carve in someone in the place of other, we will introduce a new player tomorrow,” Jennings said.

The stage is set and a weekend crowd will ensure that the decibel level never subside inside a packed venue.

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