Royal Challengers to take on Super Kings in IPL semifinal

May 22nd, 2009 - 7:57 pm ICT by IANS  

Johannesburg, May 22 (IANS) A resurgent Royal Challengers Bangalore will face formidable Chennai Super Kings in the second semi-final of the Indian Premier League at New Wanderers here Saturday.
Challengers finished seventh in the inaugural season, but under a new leader in Anil Kumble, who took the captaincy from Kevin Pietersen midway through the tournament, the team has dug deep into its reservoir of strength to end at third place in the IPL standings.

On paper, last year’s runners-up Super Kings are a balanced and strong outfit, but skipper Mahendra Singh Dhoni would be wary of the hot form of Royal Challengers, who are coming into the semifinal with four successive wins. Also, Super Kings bowling, on some occasions, have failed to complement their strong batting line-up. Challengers would be eyeing that as a weak link.

Labelled as T20’s Test team last year, Challengers showed promise when they thrashed defending Champions Rajasthan Royals in the first match. But the success turned out to be a false dawn as they slumped to four successive defeats. IPL’s biggest catch Pietersen was out of form and failed to inspire the team.

With the captaincy burden removed, Rahul Dravid, who was criticised for the team’s absymal show last year, provided the early spark in the lacklustre batting line-up.

It was only in Pietersen’s last match against Knight Riders that Challengers arrested the slide. Kumble’s captaincy infused fresh life and they won two more matches to come back in the reckoning. Jacques Kallis and Mark Boucher played some vital knocks.

Challengers lost two more matches before their best run of four successive wins, including the victory against Deccan Chargers in the last match.

The bowling attack has been led well by Kumble with Kallis and Praveen Kumar handling the pace department. South African all-rounder Roelf van der Merwe has played cameos with the bat and ball.

Super Kings made a slow start to their campaign before a fine streak of five wins in a row perched them at the top of the IPL standings for a short time.

Their biggest strength is the batting which boast of two of tournament’s top scorers in Matthew Hayden and Suresh Raina. Besides, skipper Dhoni and all-rounder Albie Morkel have been in good form.

Hayden has scored 546 runs with five half-centuries in 11 matches and is the tournament’s leading scorer. Raina is at third place with 414 runs.

But Hayden missed the last two matches with an hamstring injury and his availability remains a concern for the team.

In the bowling department, left-arm spinner Shadab Jakati emerged as a match winner in a couple of matches. Muttiah Muralitharan has got the breakthrough at crucial times.

Dhoni has shuffled his pacers with Lakshmipathy Balaji being the only certainty in the team. Manpreet Gony, Morkel and Thilan Thusara have all played at various stages and Dhoni would have to pick the right combination.

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