RCB, Sunrisers battle in quest for first-time IPL glory
Sunday, May 29, 2016
Start time 2000 local (1430 GMT)
On Sunday night at the M Chinnaswamy Stadium, two teams will seek to complete the final stretch of a journey to a summit that has thus far eluded them both. At first glance, it would appear as if the hosts, Royal Challengers Bangalore, are surer of their footing. They have built up considerable momentum, winning seven of their previous eight matches. Their two leading batsmen, Virat Kohli and AB de Villiers, bring fearsome form into the contest. And unlike Sunrisers Hyderabad, they have been in an IPL final before - twice, in 2009 and 2011. Playing a third final, in their own backyard, against an opposition that already finds itself in uncharted territory, must feel like an opportunity begging to be grabbed.
But the flip side of having played in two finals before is that they have lost two finals before. That brings mental baggage that Royal Challengers could well do without. For years they have been fancied to win the IPL, only to stumble and fall at some point. They have delivered many memorable wins, they have lit up the tournament with bursts of individual brilliance, but, in the final analysis, they have flattered to deceive. So, in some ways, the fact that a golden opportunity now presents itself puts even more pressure on Royal Challengers to get the job done this time.
Sunrisers, meanwhile, must strive to approach their first IPL final with a clarity of purpose. While they will be buoyed by the confidence of having won two knockout matches to reach this stage, it does not help that those matches were played in Delhi, in vastly different conditions. Add to it the fact that they arrived in Bangalore only on match-eve, with a delayed flight adding to their woes.
Playing Royal Challengers in Bangalore, with little time to adjust to the conditions, in front of a vociferous and partisan crowd, they might well feel that the odds are stacked against them. But if they can avoid a deer-in-the-headlights mentality and make the most of their resources, they could turn in a performance to silence the Chinnaswamy din.
That will, in large part, depend on their bowlers. No batting lineup - not even one that boasts an in-form David Warner - can match up to Kohli and de Villiers if they hit the dizzying heights that they have reached with regularity in this tournament. In trying to tame Royal Challengers' batting, Bhuvneshwar Kumar will play a particularly pivotal role. He is already the tournament's leading wicket-taker, with 23 wickets in 16 matches. If he can add a couple to that tally when bowling in the Powerplay, that might just decide the match. His ability to limit the end-overs damage with his pinpoint yorkers will also make a huge difference.
Royal Challengers Bangalore WWWWW (last five matches, most recent first)
Sunrisers Hyderabad WWLLW
In the spotlight
After playing second fiddle to Yuzvendra Chahal for much of the tournament, Iqbal Abdulla came to the fore in Royal Challengers' hour of need in Qualifier 1 against Gujarat Lions- as a batsman. Coming in to bat at 68 for 6 in the 10th over with a target of 159, Abdulla showed composure - and ability - under pressure to provide the perfect foil to AB de Villiers' match-winning masterclass. Equally invaluable were Abdulla's early strikes with the ball, removing Brendon McCullum and Aaron Finch for single-figure scores in the second over of the match. It remains to be seen how Kohli will use Abdulla in the final, but the left-arm spinner has shown that he is a man for a big occasion.
If Bhuvneshwar cannot provide Sunrisers with early breakthroughs, the onus might well fall on Moises Henriques in the middle overs. Henriques has taken 12 wickets in the tournament and maintained a reasonable economy rate of 7.65. His bowling performance will be an important supporting act to Bhuvneshwar and Barinder Sran. Henriques will also hope to be the middle-overs supporting act to Warner with the bat. His batting returns so far this season - 178 runs at 16.18, with a strike rate of 116.33 - have been disappointing, but he has looked better in his last few knocks. The Australian allrounder was a mainstay of Sunrisers' campaign last year; he has one last chance this season to make a serious impact for Sunrisers.
Chahal was the only bowler to have an off-day for Royal Challengers in Qualifier 1, but, given his consistent performances throughout the season, they are unlikely to discard him for the final. It is reasonable to expect that Royal Challengers will stick with their winning combination.
Royal Challengers Bangalore (probable) 1 Chris Gayle, 2 Virat Kohli (capt), 3 AB de Villiers, 4 KL Rahul (wk), 5 Shane Watson, 6 Stuart Binny, 7 Sachin Baby, 8 Chris Jordan, 9 Iqbal Abdulla, 10 S Aravind, 11 Yuzvendra Chahal
Sunrisers are sweating - to the point of dehydration, surely - on Mustafizur Rahman's fitness. He missed Qualifier 2 against Lions due to a hamstring injury. While his replacement, Trent Boult, made an impact with his bowling and fielding early on, Sunrisers sorely missed Mustafizur's control at the death. If the Bangladesh bowler is still unfit, Boult is likely to keep his place.
Sunrisers Hyderabad (probable) 1 David Warner (capt), 2 Shikhar Dhawan, 3 Moises Henriques, 4 Yuvraj Singh, 5 Deepak Hooda, 6 Ben Cutting, 7 Naman Ojha (wk) 8 Bhuvneshwar Kumar, 9 Bipul Sharma, 10 Barinder Sran 11 Mustafizur Rahman/Trent Boult
Pitch and conditions
For Qualifier 1, the Chinnaswamy Stadium sported a rather sticky pitch, which flew in the face of the ground's reputation for big runs. Given how nearly that ended in disaster for the home team, such a track is unlikely to be repeated. Expect a return to the batting belters seen here in the rest of the season. The type of batting belter that enabled 200 to be crossed three times at this venue in IPL 2016, including once in a 15-over match. There is a chance of evening showers on Sunday, but, if the weather does play spoilsport, Monday will serve as the reserve day.
Stats and trivia
- Kohli is 81 runs away from becoming the first batsman to score 1000 runs in an IPL season
- Out of eight innings at the Chinnaswamy this season, Kohli has crossed fifty six times, scoring three centuries and three half-centuries. He has also made a duck
- Warner has scored 468 runs while chasing in this IPL, which is the most by a batsman while chasing in any IPL season
"The biggest challenge for tomorrow I guess for all the players in the side is to not look at that game of cricket as something very different."
Royal Challengers captain Virat Kohli
Sirish Raghavan is a sub-editor at ESPNcricinfo