Sport

CSK, RCB face off in crucial clash

Defending IPL champions Chennai Super Kings await Chris Gayle and the Royal Challengers Bangalore in a top of the table clash in Bangalore on Sunday. Photo: Bhagya Prakash K.  

A match that pits two cities split by 358km of railway track and fused by a common passion for cricket, should regale the fans at the M. Chinnaswamy Stadium here on Sunday.

Royal Challengers Bangalore and Chennai Super Kings are all set for a crucial clash that would identify the number one team in the league stage. The Indian Premier League is hurtling towards its final week with CSK (18 points) and RCB (17) currently occupying the first and second slots. The team that loses Sunday's game will have to bank on net run-rate for a relevant spot in the play-offs commencing on May 24.

The last time the teams played, CSK was well set while RCB groped for an ideal combination. In that game at Chennai on April 16, Michael Hussey's unbeaten 83 set the tone for CSK's dominance while RCB wobbled with a weak top-order made worse by Tillakaratne Dilshan's poor form and the Mayank Agarwal-Asad Pathan duo's inability to get going. RCB lost that chase by 19 runs.

A lot has changed since then with CSK holding fort at its home base, notching up seven victories while a Jamaican flew down and galvanised RCB's fortunes. Chris Gayle, with the wide grin and wider bat, has waded into bowlers like a starving man at a dinner table.

His flurry of shots gave a huge impetus to RCB's fortunes and the team won seven matches on the trot until Kings XI Punjab captain Adam Gilchrist scattered the Bangalore bowlers all around Dharamshala.

Consistent CSK

CSK has played with consistency right through its campaign. S. Badrinath (362 runs), Michael Hussey (425), Suresh Raina (353) and Murali Vijay (328) have flourished and skipper M.S. Dhoni has added his might in crunch games.

Even a fringe player like Wriddhiman Saha came into his own against Kochi Tuskers Kerala. And in R. Ashwin (15 wickets) and Doug Bollinger (15), CSK has two bowlers who have retained their self-esteem against scorching bats.

Squaring up against CSK's attack will be the looming presence of Gayle. The opener, with two hundreds and four Man-of-the-Match awards this season, has dominated rivals on and off the field. Gilchrist recently admitted to having hatched ‘40 plans for Gayle' at a team meeting! Gilchrist may have exaggerated, but there is no denying the impact that Gayle has made over the last few weeks.

Virat Kohli (413 runs) has lent the sub-plot of solidity to Gayle's ferocity (436) and RCB is also bolstered by the return of regular captain Daniel Vettori, who has recovered from a knee injury.

Zaheer Khan too is part of the mix after missing the mauling at Dharamshala, which Kohli termed as a ‘wake-up' call. S. Aravind (14 wickets) has been a revelation and the left-arm seamer needs to stay in the zone against upbeat CSK batsmen.

Unlike the earlier games, the match eve was all about sunny skies with RCB sweating it out while CSK opted to rest. The rival outfits may have had contrasting preparatory routines, but when the match begins, adrenalin and combative spirits will jostle for equal space in the two dugouts.

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Printable version | Apr 20, 2021 6:31:26 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/sport/csk-rcb-face-off-in-crucial-clash/article2037763.ece

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