Royal Challengers Bangalore v Chennai Super Kings, IPL semi-final May 22, 2009

Southern stars vie for shot at top spot

Match facts

May 23, 2009
Start time 16.30 local (14:30 GMT)

Big Picture

It's a sign of how healthy and competitive this IPL has been that, going into the second semi-final, we don't have a clear favourite. There really is little separating Chennai Super Kings and Royal Challengers Bangalore, primarily due to how well Bangalore have rallied in the second half of the tournament.

At the halfway stage of this year's tournament Bangalore looked to have fallen upon their besieged ways of 2008, with just two wins from seven games. In the same timeframe Chennai had won three of seven, with one match washed out. They then went on to win five in a row, prompting many to declare them surefire semi-finalists. Then they were halted by Bangalore in Durban, a thrilling match that turned around Bangalore's fortunes. Chennai have both sputtered and smacked in recent matches, on the one hand being beaten by Kolkata Knight Riders after posting 188 yet bouncing back to clinch a low-scoring thriller over Kings XI Punjab. Bangalore have won four in a row and can rightfully stare Chennai in the eye.

Past IPL form, though, may count for little during the hazards of a knock-out match and the fight could be decided by which team keeps its cool. Chennai have the practiced wiles of Muttiah Muralitharan, coming off a tremendous Man-of-the-Match game, and Matthew Hayden. Chennai's Indian players have performed better than Bangalore's - Suresh Raina is second to Hayden in runs scored, MS Dhoni has been consistent, the bowlers have all contributed - and on that level Chennai hold an advantage.

Bangalore will rely heavily on Anil Kumble, and hope that Jacques Kallis recovers from a hamstring strain picked up in their last match. While one pair of Bangalore openers are yet to click together, the side have been handed a massive boost by young Manish Pandey's century in the last round-robin match. Ross Taylor and Mark Boucher offer power-hitting down the order. Praveen Kumar is always a threat with his subtle changes of pace with the new ball, Kumble is always there with the ball, and Roelof van der Merwe can be relied on to keep it tight.

At this stage last year, Chennai found themselves up against overwhelming favourites Punjab, but knocked them aside to make the final. Bangalore, conversely, finished last year second from bottom on the points table. Call it the south Indian Ashes, if you like, for back on the domestic circuit these two state sides enjoy a storied history. Could we have another heated battle?

Form guide (completed matches, most recent first)

Chennai Super Kings: WLWLW
In Hayden's absence due to injury over the last two matches, Chennai posted one large total and one paltry one. His replacement, fellow Australian George Bailey, didn't really click. Parthiv Patel, who came back to open only three matches ago, overcame a first-ball duck with two handy cameos; in fact he top scored in the last game. What Chennai really need is for Albie Morkel and Jacob Oram to contribute with the bat, though Oram could make way for Michael Hussey. The bowling was pasted in that sapping loss to Kolkata, but a revamped line-up worked wonders against Punjab. Murali is the best bowler but has been well supported by Raina, Shadab Jakati and, in the last game, R Ashwin.

Royal Challengers Bangalore: WWWWL
The opening pair not firing collectively is still a concern, but Pandey's century has really helped, statistically and psychologically. Taylor has been essential, Virat Kohli has chipped in with the odd cameo, and Dravid's return to form last game was a plus. The lower middle order remains a worry. Praveen's last few games have been good, but most promising has been the performance of van der Merwe and B Akhil, who have been restrictive and among the wickets.

Watch out for

Matthew Hayden: The tournament's highest run-scorer missed two games but don't expect him to be rusty in a match like this. Hayden's bat has spoken in almost every game, but none more than in the last four innings he batted, each of those contributions contrasting in manner and accumulation. After bludgeoning 89 off 58 balls against Punjab, Hayden's 48 off 44 steered a chase towards 141 versus Rajasthan. Then against Bangalore he found himself torn between domination and consolidation as Bangalore' bowlers struck all around him. Against the Mumbai Indians, he went 12.3 overs without a boundary but finished unbeaten on 60 from 57, duly earning the Man-of-the-Match award.

Murali v Bangalore's middle order: After Kallis and Dravid, Bangalore's batting rests on Taylor and Boucher. In the last game between these two sides Taylor negotiated Murali before targeting the rest and blasting a pivotal innings. Boucher was unable to get past Murali, falling to him for 5. Murali has been mesmeric since then, and will fancy himself against Boucher, Kohli and van der Merwe, who also looked out of depth against him.

Anil Kumble v MS Dhoni: India's former and current captain will square off in a match with high stakes. Both have led their sides with tact and guile, not least Kumble who came in after Kevin Pietersen left for England with Bangalore appearing hapless. Since then they have soared to the semi-finals with Kumble contributing with ball - note the match against Delhi - and with mind. From behind the stumps, Dhoni has rarely interfered with what his bowlers want to do, but his knack of knowing who to bring on and when, and what field to set for them, is critical. Dhoni has taken some good calls in seeing Chennai through to the semis again, but will have to be sharper when facing up to his Test predecessor.

Team news

Hayden will definitely return at Bailey's expense but what Chennai could well do is draft in Hussey, who has joined the squad for the last part of the IPL. He could well slot in for Oram, who hasn't scored runs or taken wickets. Morkel missed the last game and should come back, meaning Thilan Thushara will go back to warming the bench. Ashwin's excellent figures against Punjab mean he will keep Jakati out as well, but it remains to be seen if Chennai revert to L Balaji - who hasn't been successful in the last couple of games - or give Joginder Sharma another shot.

Chennai Super Kings: 1 Matthew Hayden, 2 Parthiv Patel, 3 Suresh Raina, 4 S Badrinath, 5 MS Dhoni (capt/wk), 6 Jacob Oram/Michael Hussey, 7 Albie Morkel, 8 R Ashwin, 9 L Balaji, 10 Muttiah Muralitharan, 11 Manpreet Gony.

Bangalore confidently fielded an unchanged side for the last two games, and won both. No chances foreseen here. Kallis hobbled off the field after bowling one over last game but didn't look perturbed about missing this one.

Bangalore Royal Challengers: 1 Manish Pandey, 2 Jacques Kallis, 3 Rahul Dravid, 4 Robin Uthappa, 5 Ross Taylor, 6 Virat Kohli, 7 Mark Boucher (wk), 8 Roelof van der Merwe, 9 Praveen Kumar, 10 B Akhil, 11 Anil Kumble (capt).

Stats and trivia

  • Chennai have clearly been the stronger batting team, scoring 27.43 runs per wicket at 8.17 per over, the highest run-rate for any team. Bangalore average 21.44 at 7.34 per over. With the ball too Chennai have done better, taking 87 wickets at 21.32 and an economy rate of 7.52, to Bangalore's 77 at 26.32 and 7.55 per over.

  • Chennai have preferred batting first, winning six out of nine games when they've done so. When chasing, they've won two out of four. For Bangalore the stats are more even: three out of six when batting first, and five out of eight when chasing.

  • Chennai have had ten 50-plus scores in the tournament, with Hayden getting half of them. Bangalore have managed eight, including Pandey's hundred in their previous game.

  • Not only is Hayden the highest scorer of the tournament, he has also relished the Bangalore bowling: in two innings he has scored 125 in 73 balls - average 62.50, run rate 10.27 per over.

  • On the other hand Kallis, Bangalore's top run-getter, has scored just 24 in two innings against Chennai.

Head-to-head record

Chennai outclassed Bangalore when the two sides met first this season in Port Elizabeth, thumping them by 92 runs, the largest margin of victory in the tournament so far. But then came a thriller in Durban, where Bangalore beat Chennai with two balls and two wickets to spare to keep alive their semi-final hopes in a match that lurched both ways. The teams split their two contests last year: Bangalore caving in spectacularly at the Chinnaswamy Stadium to lose by 13 runs, Chennai returning the favour at Chepauk to go down by 14 runs.

Jamie Alter is a senior sub-editor at Cricinfo