Having hit form at just the right time, star-studded Royal Challengers Bangalore are now just one win away from the final of the Indian Premier League. After out-gunning Rajasthan Royals in the eliminator, Virat Kohli’s men will vie with IPL’s most successful team, Chennai Super Kings, in the second qualifier on Friday for the right to take on Mumbai Indians for the trophy.
Despite boasting the batting firepower of Kohli, West Indian Twenty20 king Chris Gayle and South Africa captain AB de Villiers, Royal Challengers failed to even make it into the playoffs for the last three seasons. And after winning just once in their first four matches of 2015 it appeared that similar disappointment may be in store. But then their star trio began to make their impact felt and, helped by the return from injury of Australian fast bowler Mitchell Starc, the team lost just twice more to reach the playoffs.
Despite narrowly missing out on the top two, Royal Challengers had little problem getting through their eliminator, beating Rajasthan Royals by a massive 71 runs, powered by De Villiers’ 66 and 54 from Mandeep Singh. And Kohli has praised his team for overcoming past failures.
“In 2013 we did not qualify and that hurt,” he said, reports the Indian Express. “But this year we have played better cricket than the previous seasons. We have won crucial games, boys standing up and delivering for the team. A month and a half of good cricket and now it comes down to this-- the last two games,”
Royal Challengers will be looking to achieve something only one team has managed in four years of the current format -- winning both an eliminator and second qualifier to make the final. The side to do that was Chennai Super Kings in 2012, but they are now in the contrasting position of having to recover from defeat in the first qualifier.
In the unfortunate position of traveling to the home of their opponents, Super Kings were beaten by 25 runs in Mumbai. And, despite topping the league standings, Dhoni’s men have now won just three of their last eight matches. In Dhoni’s home city of Ranchi on Friday they will again have to cope without leading batsmen Brandon McCullum, who is in England captaining New Zealand during the countries’ first test. The opener hit 436 runs in the IPL this season, significantly more than any of his teammates. And Super Kings coach Stephen Fleming has called upon his remaining batsmen to step up in Friday’s all-or-nothing duel.
“Our batsmen are getting out at the wrong time,” he said, according to the official IPL website. “We are losing more wickets than we have lost in the previous IPL seasons. So we are seeing lots of batsmen having to play innings of substance when all we need is for our top four or five to get the majority of runs.”
While Royal Challengers have the momentum, Super Kings have won both matches between the teams this season. Super Kings will also be hoping that their substantial record in knockout matches stands them in good stead. As well as lifting the IPL trophy in 2010 and 2011, they have reached the final on three other occasions and are the only team to make the playoffs in each of the tournament’s eight seasons.
Match time: 10:30 a.m. EDT
TV channel: For viewers in the United States, Dish and Mediacom will offer pay-per-view coverage, with subscriptions available through your set-top box or contacting your provider.
Live streaming info: ESPN Cricket will provide live-streaming coverage of every match via a subscription that now costs $29.99.