Stephen Fleming, the Chennai Super Kings head coach, has said the top-order batting of either side will play a decisive role in the outcome of the second Qualifier against Royal Challengers Bangalore on Friday in Ranchi.

"If you look at their top three or four batters, it's the opposite to us that they are getting the majority of the runs, so that's where the competition lies," Fleming said. "Can we find a way through their top order and expose the middle order? They will be saying the same thing. If they can keep that [our] top order quiet like other teams, then they have a good chance."

Royal Challengers' top-three batsmen - Chris Gayle (450 runs), Virat Kohli (493) and AB de Villiers (512) - have scored the bulk of the runs, with the next highest contribution being 153 runs, from Mandeep Singh. Their ability, individually and collectively, to snatch the game away from the opposition wasn't lost on Fleming, who said the match was "in some ways won and lost in the first 10 overs."

"You can make as many plans as you like but he is the world's best player, he will conquer most of those plans," he said about AB de Villiers. "You have to have a bit of courage and you will also have to be ready to take the opportunity. You can't give him two bites at the cherry. So you have to be absolutely on the mark with your areas.

"We want to be on from ball one to Gayle. Virat will look to bat through probably. He is a wonderful player, but AB certainly is a guy who can take the game away from you. We got our hands full for the first 10 overs. But in saying that if we can do that well and put them under pressure, get a few wickets, we know what effect it has."

Super Kings, on the other hand, have lost their pace-setter and highest scorer Brendon McCullum, who is leading the New Zealand team in England. Fleming didn't believe his departure had come at the wrong time.

"When is the right time? We were keen on getting in the top two," he said. "Our philosophy is not to mess with the side, we wanted to qualify, got into the last game and we qualified and had to make change. This is part and parcel of the game.

"The ifs and buts can go from the first game to the last game. We are hoping that Mike Hussey and Dwayne Smith will have a great partnership here and if they don't, it's up to the next to do it. Certainly no complaints or quibbles about the way we managed up to this point from our point of view."

Fleming also dismissed suggestions of any psychological advantage his side might have following their twin victories over Royal Challengers in the league phase. "Nothing apart from the fact that we did well to beat them twice. They are a very good side. They will be a handful and they played beautifully last night."

He was, however, upbeat about playing in Ranchi, which has served as Super Kings' home venue in the past. "We played a lot last year here. Obviously it was a key part of our last season and there is some emotional attachment as well with the skipper's home town.

"The surroundings suit us and we are gearing up for this for a long time. Mumbai in Mumbai was always going to be tough but coming to Ranchi we are very determined to get to the next step, and it's another IPL final."

That determination was perhaps reflected in Super Kings' well-attended - Dhoni was the notable absentee - optional practice session on Thursday. Smith and B Aparajith had long batting sessions, while bowling coach Andy Bichel was on hand to hurl throw-downs.

Suresh Raina and Ravindra Jadeja had lengthy stints, too, in the slumbering quiet of the JSCA International Stadium, where Super Kings are for all practical purposes the 'home' team.

Arun Venugopal is a senior sub-editor at ESPNcricinfo