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Royal Challengers Bangalore look to break five-year duck against Chennai Super Kings

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Hodge: RCB's middle order against CSK's spinners will be key (8:43)

Brad Hodge and Deep Dasgupta pick their XIs for the IPL 2019 season opener (8:43)

Big Picture

Unless you're totally invested in the IPL - or any league for that matter - it can at times be hard to remember games that have finished even as recently as 48 hours ago. But in a hectic calendar and the usual haze of fours and sixes, this giant of a rivalry stands out: Chennai Super Kings v Royal Challengers Bangalore.

Numbers-wise, there's no reason to believe this is a rivalry at all. Super Kings are three-time winners, Royal Challengers are three-time chokers in the final. Royal Challengers have lost six out of their seven games at MA Chidambaram Stadium, including two cup finals - IPL 2011 and the Champions League T20 later that year. And Royal Challengers haven't beaten Thala Dhoni's men since 2014; even discounting Super Kings' two-year absence, that's a long time. What's the big fuss then? Try asking fans from both sides who they wouldn't want to lose to. And don't be swayed by what Mumbai Indians say.

A number of these losses have come from winning positions. Remember Albie Morkel smashing Virat Kohli for 28 off the first six balls he faced to clinch a winner? Or RP Singh's epic no-ball that had Ravindra Jadeja pick out third man only to win a thriller and trigger the 'Sir Jadeja' memes? Remember Dhoni's monstrous takedown of Royal Challengers' death-bowling in a high-scoring last-over thriller last year? These are likely to be a handful of games producers will slot in while programming episodes of IPL classics.

Twelve thousand fans turned up for Super Kings' training recently. Most of them, and many others, will be there before the first ball is bowled come Saturday. The opening ceremony has been done away with, but the tournament couldn't have asked for a better opener.

In the news

He pulled out of the Karachi leg of the PSL to manage his back niggle, but AB de Villiers is on track to play the opener. Royal Challengers' New Zealand duo of Colin de Grandhomme and Tim Southee have just arrived on match-eve, having finished a hectic international home summer. Marcus Stoinis and Nathan Coulter-Nile are in the UAE for a series against Pakistan.

Super Kings' Mitchell Santner, who missed the previous season, will also have had little acclimatisation time, having just joined the squad following the last round of the Plunket Shield matches in New Zealand.

Previous meeting

Pune, 2018: Jadeja took out Kohli first ball. Harbhajan Singh took out de Villiers first ball. Super Kings finished off Royal Challengers for 127 and at the end of it all, MS Dhoni just smiled. He wielded a slow pitch like a magic wand, turning a docile bowling attack - economy rate of 9.19 - into a mythical match-winning entity.

Likely XIs

Chennai Super Kings: 1 Shane Watson, 2 Faf du Plessis, 3 Suresh Raina, 4 Ambati Rayudu, 5 MS Dhoni (capt & wk), 6 Kedar Jadhav, 7 Dwayne Bravo, 8 Ravindra Jadeja, 9 Deepak Chahar, 10 David Willey, 11 Mohit Sharma

Royal Challengers Bangalore: 1 Parthiv Patel (wk), 2 Moeen Ali, 3 Virat Kohli (capt), 4 AB de Villiers, 5 Shimron Hetmyer, 6 Shivam Dube, 7 Washington Sundar, 8 Tim Southee, 9 Umesh Yadav, 10 Mohammad Siraj, 11 Yuzvendra Chahal

Strategy punt

  • Last season, Umesh Yadav was the best bowler in the Powerplays with 14 wickets - the most in this period - with an economy rate of just 6.70. So there is perhaps a case for Kohli to use him upfront and utilise Tim Southee's experience at the death. They also need a seasoned campaigner there, considering their death overs were by far the worst - they went for 11.90 in the last six - among all franchises.

  • Shimron Hetmyer's explosive game may well give Royal Challengers a batting identity beyond de Villiers and Kohli, but he doesn't start well against spin, as a dot-ball percentage of 44.3 and strike rate of 126 suggest. Super Kings could look to exploit this weakness by utilising Jadeja, Jadhav, Santner, if he plays, or even Raina's part-time spin to counter this.

Stats that matter

  • Kohli's 732 runs are the most by a batsman against Super Kings in the IPL. He also has the most number of 30-plus scores (12) against them. Similarly, his counterpart Dhoni's 710 runs are the most by a batsman against Royal Challengers in the IPL.

  • The only Super Kings bowler to have dismissed de Villiers more than once in the current squad is Imran Tahir. Will he make the XI, though?

  • He has retired from internationals, and even as his countrymen have struggled in limited-overs cricket over the last 12 months, Shane Watson has grown from strength to strength. He comes into the tournament having finished the PSL as the highest run-scorer (430 runs in 12 innings). He didn't do too badly in the Big Bash League in December-January either, finishing among the top-ten run-getters.

Super Kings 2nd innings Partnerships

WktRunsPlayers
1st8AT RayuduSR Watson
2nd32AT RayuduSK Raina
3rd19AT RayuduKM Jadhav
4th12RA JadejaKM Jadhav