The Chennai Super Kings will take on the Royal Challengers Bangalore in the second qualifier at the JSCA International Cricket Stadium in Ranchi on Friday.
Despite topping the points table in the league phase, CSK is taking the longer route to try and book their spot in the final, after losing their first qualifier to the Mumbai Indians. On the other hand, the RCB had put in an all-round performance against the Rajasthan Royals to reach the qualifier.
The match promises to bring out the contrasting captaincy styles of a calm and composed Mahendra Singh Dhoni and Virat Kohli’s in-your-face aggression.
Five factors to watch out for
RCB’s batting vs CSK’s bowling
RCB’s famed batting trio has lived up to its potential, with AB de Villiers, Chris Gayle, and Virat Kohli scoring about 71% of the team’s runs. In the eliminator against RR, RCB managed to post a formidable 180 despite Gayle and Kohli having an off-day.
CSK will depend on Purple Cap holder Dwayne Bravo and the reliable Ashish Nehra to deliver the critical breakthroughs. While Nehra has been bowling his heart out the other CSK bowlers have been leaking runs throughout this season, which is a cause for concern.
The Spin factor
On a pitch known to provide assistance to spinners, the trio of R Ashwin, Ravindra Jadeja, and Pawan Negi will be expected to restrict the run flow in the middle overs and put pressure on the opposition batsmen.
When it comes to spin bowling, the RCB has the services of Yuzvendra Chahal at its disposal. The young leggie from Haryana is third in the top wicket takers' column, behind Dwayne Bravo and Lasith Malinga, with 21 scalps. Despite getting hit for boundaries, Chahal never shies away from tossing the ball up, which fetches the team much-needed wickets.
Brendon McCullum’s absence
Brendon McCullum’s absence was felt in CSK’s loss to MI in the first qualifier. The swashbuckling Kiwi, who left for national duty, has been replaced by Aussie Michael Hussey, but he has some big shoes to fill.
In the absence of McCullum, the rest of CSK’s batting line-up must take up the responsibility. Suresh Raina has only managed two fifties thus far. Faf du Plessis has thrown away his wicket in many matches after getting good starts. Although MS Dhoni has managed a respectable 328 runs in 15 matches, his strike rate of 124.71 should have been higher, given his position and role in the batting line-up.
CSK leads the head-to-head record 11-7 and have won their two matches against RCB in the group stage. However, RCB has won six of their last eight matches, while CSK has managed just three wins of the last eight.
Gayle vs Nehra
Both teams rely on these two individuals to get them off to a good start. While RCB will be hoping that Gayle lands some balls on the roof of the Stadium, Chennai Super Kings fans will be praying for Nehra to rattle his stumps early in the innings.
While Gayle is in contention for the Orange cap having scored 450 runs this season, Ashish Nehra is just 4 wickets away from the current Purple Cap holder Dwayne Bravo.
Dwayne Smith vs Starc
One of the prime reasons why CSK finished at the top after the league stage was Brendon McCullum. He got them off to flyers in almost all the matches. Dwayne Smith will now have to shoulder responsibility and ensure that he doesn't throw away his wicket easily.
RCB started off with 3 losses in their first four games. In came Mitchell Starc, with scorching pace and deceiving swing. He's proved to be an adrenaline shot for RCB.
RCB will again be expecting Starc to make early inroads and Smith will have to be the wall to weather this storm.
Chahal vs Raina
Suresh Raina has been out of form most of the season. But he's always been a thorn for RCB. When the two teams met at M Chinaswamy stadium (Bangalore) in the league stage, Raina scored a fluent half century and was adjudged the man of the match.
Yuzvendra Chahal has hardly played for Haryana in the past 4 Ranji seasons. He's only made his way into the team when Amit Mishra was injured or on national duty. Chahal has been hit for a number of sixes this season. The fact worth noting is, eight of his 21 scalps this season had hit him for a six on the previous ball. He's been skipper Kohli's go-to man and has delivered every time his team needed a breakthrough.
It will be interesting to see which of these players 'turn things around' when they come face-to-face.
Du Plessis vs David Wiese
After Brendon McCullum's departure, the onus of scoring brisk runs at the top has fallen on Du Plessis. He will be expected to anchor the innings in case Smith or Hussey fall early.
Wiese is a tricky customer. He generates good pace and gets ample movement off the deck. RCB will need him to stem the flow of runs in the middle overs and also ensure that he can send back Du Plessis before he moves into fifth gear.
Bravo vs Mandeep Singh
In RCB's eliminator against Rajasthan Royals (RR), Mandeep Singh showed that the team is not only about the Gayles, the Kohlis, and the de Villiers. He partnered with AB de Villiers to guide his team from a precarious 46 for 2, to a imposing 180 at the end of 20 overs.
Bravo and Nehra have wrecked oppositions. They have 42 wickets amongst themselves. Dhoni likes to bring on Bravo in the latter half of the innings - he dries up runs and picks up wickets at regular intervals.
CSK will be wary of Mandeep after his heroics against RR, but he will have to tie up his laces to stand tall against Bravo.
Virat Kohli vs MS Dhoni
This will undoubtedly be the most looked-forward to contest today. Fiery Kohli will maneuver his troops to try and take down Captain Cool Dhoni.
While Kohli's brash, aggressive, meeting fire-with-fire persona often lands him in trouble on-and-off the field, Dhoni is the embodiment of calmness, earning global praise for captaining in a composed manner. Each move of theirs will be keenly followed.
Dhoni likes to slow things when the opposition is batting and has been playing 3 spinners in his team, Kohli believes in attacking on all fronts, which has been evident from the four-pacer strategy that RCB have followed this season.