The first semi final in IPL 3 sees the Mumbai Indians take on Royal Challengers Bangalore on Wednesday. The fact these two meet in the semis comes as a surprise to many, who thought they’d only lock horns in the final. Mumbai are favourites after topping the table but any side with Bangalore’s batting line-up can’t be written off.
Venue and Conditions:
After 56 games in IPL 3 the eight teams have finally been whittled down to four and now it’s time to get serious. The first semi final will see the Royal Challengers Bangalore take on the Mumbai Indians and for the winners the spoils couldn’t be higher: a place in the final and also a guaranteed spot in the lucrative Champions League this autumn.
Originally this match was scheduled to be played in Bangalore, but given there were two explosions before the last Bangalore home game, it has now been switched. Fortunately for Mumbai the game is now to be played in Mumbai, at the huge Dr DY Patil Sports Academy, where 60,000 Sachin Tendulkar fans will be out in force to cheer on their hero. Only two IPL matches have been played there so far so there are no obvious trends but the wicket does appear to provide assistance to the spinners.
Mumbai rested a number of players for their dead rubber match against Kolkata, so expect to see many changes from that game. Tendulkar, Kieron Pollard, Harbhajan Singh, Lasith Malinga and Zaheer Khan will all come back in, while Dwayne Bravo will likely be the most high-profile overseas player to miss out.
As recently as last weekend, the Mumbai Indians hammered the Royal Challengers by 57 runs in Bangalore. Mumbai were ruthless on the day as they were already assured of their semi final place. They topped the IPL points table by four points while the Royal Challengers called upon their superior net run rate to eventually finish fourth and take their place in the semi final line up.
Tendulkar finished as leading run scorer, Tiwary proved himself to be a diamond, Pollard justified his price tag and Khan, Malinga, Harbhajan all the made the top seven of the leading wicket takers log.
Bangalore were soundly thumped in their last match against Mumbai, though they were chasing an imposing 192 to win. They appear to have a pretty settled team though, with Kevin Pietersen and Ross Taylor having found favouritism in the middle order at the expense of Cameron White. The South African duo of Jacques Kallis and Dale Steyn will round off the overseas contingent.
RCB were my pre tournament pick and if you go all the way back to match #14 you will see RCB ran out comfortable winners by seven wickets when the sides met in Mumbai. They followed up by beating the Super Kings in convincing fashion and everything was looking rosy with Kallis at the top of the run scoring charts, Steyn running into form, Kumble miserly with the ball and the late arrival of Kevin Pietersen, Ross Taylor and Cameron White providing the options for yet more awesome hitting power alongside Robin Uthappa, However from there onwards, RCB won just three of their remaining nine matches.
If RCB are to turn this round, Ross Taylor needs to come to the party. Much was expected of Taylor but he has just 57 runs to his name in six innings. Pietersen (SR 154) and Uthappa (SR 170) have strike rates to give opposing bowlers nightmares but they have too seldom been seen repairing or chasing too stiff a target rather than grinding the opposition’s noses in it.
With the ball, Steyn (6.76 per over) and Kumble (6.46) of RCB have twelve wickets each and excellent economy rates but after that, Vinay Kumar and Kallis of the regular bowlers each concede almost 8.5 runs per over. Compare this with Mumbai who could almost field of a full team of bowlers whose economy rates come in at under 8.00 per over.
Tendulkar and Kallis are the highest scoring batsman in IPL 3 and are the only two to have scored over 500 runs. Both share the same top score of 89.
Head to Head:
Mumbai lost only one home game all season and that loss came against Bangalore, thanks to three-wicket hauls from Steyn and Vinay Kumar and later a composed 66* from Kallis. Mumbai got their revenge a month later when the two sides met in Bangalore, and despite Sachin’s failure, Mumbai racked up 191 to score an easy 57-run victory.
The winner of the Steyn v Tendulkar clash may prove decisive, so Mumbai will look to see off the dangerous paceman in the early overs then look to attack the Bangalore back-up seamers, who look like the weakest link for the Royal Challengers at the moment. Pollard and JP Duminy will attempt to boost the scoring rate in the later overs if all goes to plan.
Bangalore have an imposing batting line up but they have been handicapping themselves recently by getting off to very slow starts in innings. The key will be for a reasonably-paced start from the likes of Kallis and Pietersen, allowing plenty of time for Ross Taylor and Robin Uthappa to unleash their power and clear the ropes later on. This is easier said than done of course, given the effectiveness of the Mumbai bowling attack.
Author: Mona Gupta (New Delhi)