The Indian Premier League’s (IPL) round-robin clash is set for an exciting finish as Royal Challengers Bangalore meet Deccan Chargers at the SuperSport Park on Thursday to decide for a semifinal berth.
After 33 days of action and 55 matches, it will boil down to the last match of the league to determine the semi-finalists, underlining how the eight teams have fiercely fought to churn out entertaining cricket.
The two bottom-placed teams of the inaugural season will be fighting for a last four spot. Both teams have 14 points from 13 matches.
It will also help both teams that are playing the last league match and will be aware of the winning margins to race ahead of other teams.
Chargers were a completely transformed side in the first half of the tournament.
They started with a bang ruthlessly crushing opponents in four successive matches and taking a huge leap over others to lead the standings. But then they slumped losing three matches in a row before re-discovering the winning touch.
They could have been through to the last four had the batsmen not committed against Delhi Daredevils and Kings XI Punjab, the two matches where they lost from winning position.
Boasting the most formidable batting line-up, the Chargers have been strengthened by the joining of Andrew Symonds who is in ominous form.
Adam Gilchrist has been a revelation with the bat. The retired Australian has shown no signs of rust and led the team with inspiration. Rohit Sharma has played an important role both with the bat and with his part time off-spin. He has emerged as a match-winner and his 21-run blitz in the last over against Knight Riders snatched an unlikely victory for the team to stay afloat.
The bowling, too, has been sharp. They have got more dividends with the spin attack. Left-arm spinner Pragyan Ojha has got breakthroughs and Symonds has been more than handy. R.P Singh has led the attack with example, emerging as the highest wicket-taker.
It has almost been the same script for Royal Challengers, who had a sensational start with a thumping victory over defending champions Rajasthan Royals.
But the euphoria soon died down even as Kevin Pietersen, the new skipper, failed to work his magic with the bat. They lost four matches before resurrecting themselves in Pietersen’s last match. Anil Kumble since then has captained the side with gumption, moulding them to a winning outfit.
“We have not looked at the standings. We have just focussed on one match at a time and we will take this as another match,” skipper Anil Kumble said.
Bowling has been the strength of Challengers. Praveen Kumar and Vinay Kumar have taken advantage with the new ball and Kumble has produced his best.
Jacques Kallis is finally among runs and led them to a resounding victory in the last match against Delhi Daredevils. Mark Boucher looks in good touch and Robin Uthappa has batted well in patches.