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Gasp for the last lap

cricket Updated: May 27, 2011 01:59 IST
Rohit Bhaskar
Rohit Bhaskar
Hindustan Times
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MS Dhoni & Co have already advanced to the summit clash of IPL-4. What awaits them in the final, in addition to the winner of the second qualifier between Royal Challengers Bangalore and Mumbai Indians at the MA Chidambaram Stadium in Chennai on Friday, is a feeling of déjà vu.

Defending champions Chennai Super Kings beat Mumbai Indians in last year's final, and have faced RCB twice in the past week. No matter who wins the face-off on Friday, CSK will face familiar foes on Saturday. The only question that remains is ‘who’.

Mumbai Indians were the form team in the first half of the tournament, RCB in the second half. However, when they square off at the Chepauk all that will be forgotten, the only thing that will matter is their form on the day.

Match box

MI advanced to the clash after beating Kolkata Knight Riders on Wednesday. However, while it looked to be smooth sailing 10 overs into their chase, patchy play under pressure left them in troubled waters. In the end, they did just about enough.

“I think everyone cracks under pressure. There are very few players in the world who play well under pressure,” said MI coach Robin Singh, who not for the first time saw the MI batting collapse.

However, their hero, like in the match against KKR in Kolkata, was an unlikely one. Not much was expected from James Franklin at the start of the season, but over the last two games, the lanky Kiwi has shown a tendency to apply himself well under pressure.

“I think yesterday players who we expected to do well didn’t, and the ones who we actually thought might not handle the pressure well actually did so exceptionally,” said Singh. In addition to Franklin, he was also referring to Australian opener Aiden Blizzard, whose fifty at the start set up Mumbai's win.

RCB, for a long time, in fact even know, have been looking to shake off the tag of a one-man army. Such has been Chris Gayle’s impact. The Jamaican failed in the last match against CSK, but Virat Kohli rose to the challenge. The 22-year-old's exquisite knock put RCB on the brink of a win against CSK, a position they didn't relinquish before Suresh Raina's knock turned the game on its head.

The bowlers, especially left-arm pacer S Aravind, have been in the batsman’s shadow all season — doing all the legwork. On Tuesday, the batting had failed. If they fail again on Friday, MI will get a chance to exact revenge for last year's final loss.