After nearly two months of exciting IPL action, we have finally arrived at the grand finale of the 2016 edition, with Royal Challengers Bangalore (RCB) and Sunrisers Hyderabad (SRH) set to lock horns at the M Chinnaswamy Stadium on Sunday.
Both sides have been led charismatically by their respective captains, Virat Kohli and David Warner, who have both been in great touch with the bat. While the match has been touted as the battle between RCB's supreme batting against SRH's bowling unit (somewhat similar to how India's famed batting is said to meet Pakistan's immaculate bowling whenever the two sides clash), it will also be a test of how RCB's much-improved bowling perform, and if SRH's batting is able to provide enough support to skipper Warner.
Here's a look at the top five battles that will decide the fate of the war on Sunday:
Virat Kohli vs Bhuvneshwar Kumar
Simply put, it is the best batsman of the tournament clashing against the best bowler. Kohli's feats in IPL 2016 need no introduction. With four centuries in a single edition at an incredible average of 83, the RCB skipper has warranted himself a comparison with the greatest batsmen of all time. His Bradman-esque run in the tournament played a major role in turning around the fortunes of Bangalore, who were nearly knocked out at one point before recording five consecutive wins to storm into the final.
Meanwhile, Bhuvneshwar has displayed tremendous form, and has formed a lethal combination with Mustafizur Rahman. His ability to get the early breakthrough with seam and swing movement, as well as his clever variations in the death overs have helped him rise to the top of the bowling charts and play a crucial role with the ball.
In the biggest match of them all, the duo will be looking to have a go at each other early in the innings in order to get the early momentum for their respective sides.
David Warner vs Shane Watson
The second highest run-getter against the (joint) second-highest wicket-taker. A notch below than the Kohli-Bhuvi clash, one could dare say. While SRH boasts of the best bowling attack among all the teams in the tournament, with each seamer making valuable contributions, the batting department has been propelled almost single-handedly by skipper Warner, currently sitting pretty at the top of the run-getters list (779). He was also particularly ruthless against RCB, hammering 58 and 92 in the two games he played against them in the group stage.
Watson, on the other hand, has been RCB's top bowler of the tournament alongside Yuzvendra Chahal, with 20 scalps. Although he occasionally gets whacked for runs, Watto more than makes up for it with his timely strikes. Come Sunday, an interesting battle between two men who used to open the batting for Australia is sure to ensue.
AB de Villiers vs Mustafizur Rahman
The battle of ABD's 360 degree batting against Mustafizur's cutters and yorkers, both of which have caused massive impact in the ninth edition of the league. De Villiers' sensational batting skills, which glows of innovation and complements brilliantly with that of Kohli, has helped the South African move to the third spot in the top run-getters list. De Villiers also showed why the RCB batting line-up deserves to be the most feared entity in the tournament — winning the qualifier against Gujarat Lions almost single-handedly.
'The Fizz', as Mustafizur has come to be known in recent times, has been charting an inspirational journey towards success since making a memorable debut against India in 2015. In his maiden IPL outing, he managed to establish himself as the most economical bowler of the tournament (10 wickets and above), and his classic yorker to bowl Kolkata Knight Riders' (KKR) Andre Russell will be one of his most cherished moments. A meeting between the two is likely given the fact that Mustafizur is often introduced quite late into the attack. Nevertheless, it remains to be seen whose brilliance prevails at the end of the day.
Yuvraj Singh vs Yuzvendra Chahal
Despite executing shots with a touch of the old class, and top-scoring for Hyderabad in the eliminator against KKR, Yuvraj has not quite clicked in the tournament. Sunday's clash, which will be Yuvi's first-ever IPL final, could be the perfect platform for the veteran southpaw to prove that he still has a fight or two left in him. It could also be a fitting answer to the national selectors, who decided to ignore him for the upcoming tours of Zimbabwe and West Indies.
Chahal, on the other hand, displayed tremendous form in RCB's recent games (12 wickets in the last five games) to grab hold of the purple cap for a while, before eventually surrendering it to Bhuvneshwar. The leg-spinner will be a key weapon for Kohli along with left-arm spinner Iqbal Abdulla.
Chahal will look for victims in the middle stages of the Sunrisers' innings, which makes it likely for them to come face-to-face against Yuvraj, who is known to be a good player of spin.
Chris Gayle vs Barinder Sran
Gayle, considered the most dominant batsman in the format, has had a lean patch in the IPL so far, failing to rack up runs except for knocks of 49 and 73 against KKR and KXIP respectively. Come Sunday, Gayle will be desperate to sign out of the tournament on a high with a major score.
Sran, who has been consistent in terms of taking wickets, is the third-highest wicket-taker for his side, will look to stop the tall Jamaican early in the innings. Should Mustafizur come in place of Trent Boult in the final, Sran is likely to open the bowling alongside Bhuvneshwar.
Softening Gayle up with a couple of short ones, as well as some clever variations might just do the trick for him. However, he would be in for some nasty treatment should he fire his arrows wrong.
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Updated Date: May 29, 2016 14:56:49 IST