Confident MI face RCB in crucial IPL game

Mumbai: Buoyed by their sensational last-ball victory over Chennai Super Kings, a keyed up Mumbai Indians take on strong challengers Royal Challengers Bangalore in a crucial Indian Premier League game, here tomorrow.

While MI have garnered 14 points from 11 matches, RCB are trailing them by three points, having played the same number of games ahead of the high-octane first leg clash.

If MI stopped the Super Kings in their tracks when new recruit Dwayne Smith smashed Ben Hilfenhaus for a six and two fours off the last three balls, RCB were no less impressive in pulling off a thrilling victory over Deccan Chargers.

AB de Villiers` 17-ball unbeaten 47 swung the game RCB`s way and he, along with another in-form batsman Chris Gayle, is a major threat to Mumbai`s hopes of pulling off their fourth straight victory.

A victory for MI would boost the points tally to 16 with four games left and would help them draw level with Delhi Daredevils, albeit with one game less in hand. But more importantly it would ease the pressure enormously from their shoulders in the red-hot race to the last-four.

A setback for last year`s runners-up RCB would put them under the same sort of difficulties that are being faced by two-time holders Super Kings after their defeat to MI.

In batting RCB have been well-served by left-handed West Indian powerhouse Gayle (433 runs from 10 games) at the top, and classy right-handed South African de Villiers (292 from 11 games) who can switch-hit powerfully to spoil the spinners` plans – in the middle.

These two batsmen, averaging 48-plus, have shouldered the responsibility of propping up the Bangalore batting admirably in which another key member India star Virat Kohli has, unfortunately, not lived up to the high expectations.

Tilakkaratne Dilshan has settled in the top order well and RCB would be depending a lot on this overseas trio and Kohli in batting against the varied Mumbai attack, spearheaded by speedster Lasith Malinga.

The big worry for RCB is the Kohli`s lack of form. He has scored just 201 runs from 11 games. Mayank Agarwal and Saurabh Tiwary have also not made any significant contribution.

In bowling, RCB have Zaheer Khan and R Vinay Kumar as the leading wicket-takers, but have not used Muthiah Muralitharan who has taken eight wickets from five games ? to the extent expected. He played in the previous game after a lengthy gap.

Left-arm Indian pace spearhead Zaheer`s battle with his Mumbai city mate and MI opener Sachin Tendulkar should liven up the proceedings in front of what is going to be another sell-out crowd watching the match under lights.

RCB skipper Daniel Vettori (5 wickets from 9 games) has struggled to take wickets, but can pose challenges to the Mumbai batsmen with his vast experience while the team has the option to field fellow-left arm spinner K P Appanna.

With two wins and as many losses along with a split points verdict against Super Kings in their last five games, RCB seem to have got their campaign back on track and a victory over MI would improve their qualifying hopes.

Their rivals MI are on a roll as they have beaten Deccan Chargers at home, Pune Warriors (away) and the Super Kings in their backyard in successive games. What was most heartening for MI was Tendulkar regaining his touch against the Super Kings. He played a superb innings of 74 in 44 balls.

Another pleasing fact for MI is inclusion of Smith in the squad. The Caribbean all-rounder delivered the knock-out blow to the Super Kings in the final over with an unbeaten 9-ball 24 and the innings has cemented his place in the eleven.

Malinga, who has emerged as the leading wicket taker in the competition after the game against Super Kings, is the major threat for the Bangalore batsmen with his ability to bowl effectively as first or second change and at the death by using his inch-perfect yorkers.

Skipper Harbhajan Singh has also sprang back to his much-vaunted form and R P Singh too bowled well against the Super Kings, but a question mark remains over Munaf Patel who has gone for plenty in his last few games.

The support bowling from Robin Peterson and Smith did not measure up to the expected levels against the Super Kings and the former might give his place if Kieron Pollard returns after recovering from his right shoulder injury.