Bangalore hold aces against southern rivals
Match factsTuesday, March 23
Start time 2000 (1430 GMT)
Bangalore and Chennai are capital cities sharing a traditional rivalry but when extended to the third edition of the IPL, there is little debate over which team is better placed going into Tuesday's match-up. Bangalore are top of the IPL table while Chennai are bruising physically and mentally.
Both teams suffered blips in their respective starts to the tournament before winning the next two games. However, Chennai's Super Over defeat at home to Kings XI Punjab on Sunday, when they failed to chase 137, the fitness problems of two crucial players, MS Dhoni and Justin Kemp, and repeated failures in their experiments with the fifth-bowler slot are serious causes for concern. Manpreet Gony, who struggled against Punjab with both bat and ball, Joginder Sharma and Sudeep Tyagi have all been tried with poor results.
Contrast that to Bangalore's resurgence. There has been stability in their attack with the five frontline bowlers retained in their three successive wins; targets high, low and tricky have been chased ruthlessly with Jacques Kallis unbeaten in this IPL, and with three fifties in four games; and backing up a formidable opening pair of Kallis and Manish Pandey is a line-up with considerable international exposure, which Chennai's bowlers, barring Muttiah Muralitharan, may struggle to contain.
The absence of Dhoni hurt Chennai in their failed chase against Punjab; his recovery from an injury to his arm has been gradual, and coach Stephen Fleming had said he could take the field in the game against Mumbai Indians on March 25. Chennai, who could slip down further from their current fourth position in the event of a loss on Tuesday, need an urgent recovery with their star player missing.
Bangalore will be tempted to retain the combination that has won them the last three games. Eoin Morgan, though, thanks to the success of the openers, hasn't had much time in the middle and Bangalore will be keen to witness him perform.
Chennai could leave out Gony after his disappointing turn-out against Punjab. Chennai will have prepared a contingency measure for Kemp, who hurt his back, bowling just one ball and not coming out to bat. In the event of his absence, Sri Lankan allrounder Thissara Perera remains an option, so does Makhaya Ntini, should Chennai aim to strengthen their bowling. C Ganapathy, a fast-bowling allrounder, who is a crucial member of the Tamil Nadu set-up, could fill in if Gony's left out.
Bangalore 3 Chennai 2
The teams shared honours in the first edition, with Chennai beating Bangalore at the Chinnaswamy Stadium by 13 runs, and Bangalore prevailing at Chepauk by 14 runs. The league stages in South Africa followed a similar pattern as Chennai triumphed in Port Elizabeth by 92 runs, followed by Bangalore surviving by two wickets in Durban. However, Bangalore had the last laugh, sealing an easy win in the semi-final by six wickets, with Pandey and Rahul Dravid seeing them through.
In the spotlight
Murali v Bangalore top order: Kallis and Pandey have been dominant while opening. While Kallis, with all his experience, has the wherewithal to combat Murali, Pandey has only faced the offspinner once. He proved adept against Shane Warne in Bangalore's ten-wicket win, showing solidity in defence and picking the variations to find the boundary. While Murali generally doesn't prefer bowling within the first six overs, Chennai may adopt a different strategy to halt Bangalore's success at the top.
Matthew Hayden v Dale Steyn: Steyn has clocked close to 150 kmph this tournament and has been economical, working well with his opening partner Praveen Kumar. He is foremost in Anil Kumble's plan of bouncing out Indian batsmen. While the ploy may be designed more to target someone like Suresh Raina, who was found out in the World Twenty20, Hayden's naturally audacious approach presents a different challenge.
Anil Kumble has bowled 45 dot balls in this IPL, Steyn too has 45 and Praveen Kumar has 43. They are part of a list of six players with the most dot balls in the competition; Murali has 46 to his name.
Bangalore have conceded 180 runs in the Powerplay in this IPL, at 7.19 an over. They are third in the list of most economical teams in the first six overs, with Deccan Chargers leading with 5.95, followed by Kolkata Knight Riders at 6.92. Chennai, with 7.68, are in fifth place.
"We wanted Kallis to bat for the 20 overs and he has been doing that. He has been anchoring one end and when required he has been taking on the bowlers. He is a great player and with his ability to bowl he is a great asset. We hope that this continues."
Anil Kumble, the Bangalore captain, sums up Kallis' role, which he has lived up to with much success thus far.
Siddhartha Talya is an editorial assistant at Cricinfo