Bangalore favourite in fight for final
Tuesday, May 24, Mumbai
Start time 2000 (1430 GMT)
It began with a last-ball thriller, meandered in the middle, and ended with perhaps the most exciting match of the season. The IPL league phase is over, and though there were some spirited contenders, the four teams who looked strongest from the start are the ones that have progressed.
Amid the randomness of the prolonged qualification period Royal Challengers Bangalore have provided some stability. With eight wins in their previous nine games, they are undoubtedly favourites, a concept so vital to most sporting contests, but considered taboo in the IPL. They have earned the tag, and not just through the belligerence of Chris Gayle. S Aravind and Virat Kohli have been consistent, Daniel Vettori has been effective in his unassuming manner, Zaheer Khan has shown glimpses of his abilities and, perhaps, most importantly they've been relatively safe with their catching in a tournament plagued by poor fielding.
They beat Chennai in their last league game and a similar result in the first qualifier on Tuesday will ensure a berth in the final.
Chennai, though, have the opportunity to play some MS Dhoni-endorsed "fearless" cricket, knowing that the lifeline Kolkata's L Balaji and Mumbai's Ambati Rayudu combined to afford them on Sunday night is a sturdy one. Their second chance, should they need it, will be in Chennai, where they won all seven of their games in the group phase.
It will be interesting to see whether they take some risks to derail the Bangalore juggernaut; perhaps throw caution to the wind with the bat, or maybe put in some close fielders for the phenomenal Gayle.
Bangalore: WLWWW (first on points table)
Chennai: LWWWL (second on points table)
In three matches since Tillakaratne Dilshan's departure, Bangalore tried three different opening partners for Gayle, all without much success. The latest move, to push AB de Villiers up the order, was the boldest, as it clusters Bangalore's three best batsmen at the top, and leaves the middle order looking inexperienced.
If they do stick with de Villiers up the order, Luke Pomersbach is rather wasted as a fourth foreign player. They could replace him with either Asad Pathan or Arun Karthik, and bring in Charl Langeveldt, who took five wickets in the three chances he was given, in place of Abhimanyu Mithun. Vettori also suggested after the previous game that Bangalore may bring in spinner J Syed Mohammad in place of a batsman if the pitch looks like it will turn.
Chennai have not changed their XI in their previous four games, but may consider a couple of moves after the thrashing they were handed in Bangalore. Albie Morkel has not displayed the wicket-taking ability he did in the first half of the tournament, and with Chennai's batting line-up already long enough, Tim Southee is an option.
Predict the playing XIs for this match. Play ESPNcricinfo Team selector.
In the spotlight
S Badrinath has failed in his previous two innings. The last time Chennai played at the Wankhede Stadium, he was sublime during his 71 not out off 48 balls. In last year's semi-final, he was Chennai's top-scorer with 37.
AB de Villiers has had an ordinary second half of the season with the bat, but his talent is unquestionable. He likes being in the thick of the action, so won't mind opening the batting again.
- Daniel Vettori is by far the most economical bowler of this IPL season (five overs minimum). His 40 overs have gone at a rate of just 5.40 an over.
- With five stumpings, MS Dhoni has the most such dismissals among the wicketkeepers in this IPL.
"If you get Chris Gayle out and you've got a few [runs on the board], you have a chance; getting him out will be priority, number one."
Stephen Fleming, the Chennai coach, knows who Bangalore's main man is.