Two-time champions Chennai Super Kings (CSK), which made it to the play-offs from behind after home team Bangalore (RCB) forfeited its chance, will take on an upbeat Mumbai Indians (MI) Wednesday in the second play-offs of the Indian Premier league (IPl-V) at the Chinnaswamy stadium here.
Though the high-octane tie is dubbed an "eliminator", as the winner will face the loser of Tuesday's Qualifier 1 in Chennai May 25 for a place in the title clash May 27 as "Qualifier 2" in Chennai again, both the teams had gruelling net practice in the floodlit stadium late Tuesday for crossing the first hurdle.
While CSK made it to the fourth place on better net run rate (0.1 NRR) over RCB (-0.022) despite both sharing 17 points from eight wins and seven losses in the 16 league matches, Mumbai ranked above them with 20 points from 10 wins and six losses, albeit at lesser NRR (-0.100).
A league tie between CSK and RCB was abandoned due to heavy rain April 25 here, giving them one point each.
Unlike in the previous tournaments, when both the teams had sailed to the qualifying rounds without as many reverses as in this tournaments, including a couple of close games, Mumbai start as favourites having won both the league games - in the opening tie April 4 in Chennai by eight wickets and again in Mumbai May 6 by two wickets.
It is a different matter that Chennai can bet on its track record of having reached the finals thrice -- in the 2008 IPl inaugural and consecutively in 2010 and 2011 and also winning the title beating Mumbai in 2010 in Mumbai and RCB in 2011 back home in Chennai.
"Both the teams are equally strong, though Chennai is more balanced in batting and bowling. With Michael Hussey, Suresh Raina, S.Badrinath and skipper M.S. Dhoni in top order, it has Dwayne Bravo and Ravindra Jadeja in middle order to set a high score or chase a big target while Albie Morkel, Ben Hilfenhaus or Doug Bollinger and R. Ashwin and Jadeja make up the bowling quarter to restrict or tame Mumbai batters to avenge their defeat in the league ties," former state cricket Sujit Somsundar told IANS here.
With Bangalore proving to be a lucky ground for Mumbai, as it never lost a game against hosts RCB in this and previous tournaments' league matches, die-hard fans of batting maestro Sachin Tendulkar will be rooting for the 2010 runners-up to win against Chennai the third time this season.
Besides Tendulkar, Mumbai skipper Harbhajan Singh will be pinning hopes on in-form Dwayne Smith, Herschelle Gibbs, Kieron Pollard, Rohit Sharma, Ambati Rayudu and James Franklin to give their best shot for maintaining their winning streak against Chennai. Similarly, Bhajji has Sri lankan pacer lasith Malinga, Munaf Patel, R.P. Singh and Pollard to back him on the bowling front.
In terms of form, Mumbai reached the eliminator round on high with an emphatic 10-wicket victory over Rajasthan Royals in Jaipur Sunday (May 20), while Chennai came losing to Kings XI Punjab by six wickets May 17 at Dharmashala in Himachal Pradesh.
Absence of the home team (RCB) in the second play-off not withstanding, a cracker of contest is on cards for the frenzied fans of Bangalore on a breezy night, as the 40,000-seat capacity stadium is setto be packed full what with "all tickets sold out' sign boards across the counters and gates around.