Wanderers:After 36 days of scintillating action and 58 dazzling encounters, the penultimate stage of the Indian Premier League (IPL) could not have been more exciting as the two bottom-placed teams of the inaugural edition - Deccan Chargers and Bangalore Royal Challengers - made it to Sunday's title clash.
Royal Challengers qualified for the final via a six-wicket victory over the Chennai Super Kings at the same venue on Saturday, thanks to 48 from 19-year-old Manish Pandey and 44 from Rahul Dravid, as their side chased down a target of 147 with seven balls to spare.
Ironically Sunday's finalists finished third and fourth in the round-robin phase of the DLF IPL being held in South Africa, and the teams who were knocked out in the semi-finals were top finishers the Delhi Daredevils and the Chennai Super Kings.
Both Chargers and Challengers have new captains in Adam Gilchrist and Anil Kumble and they have led the team from the front.
The Deccan Chargers and Royal Challengers Bangalore actually met in their final round-robin match, on Thursday, which Anil Kumble's men in red won by 12 runs on the back of Pandey's brilliant 114 not out. But, as the captains of both finalists have repeated often enough, the knockout stages of the tournament are not so much about names on paper, but about peaking at the right time.
The Deccan Chargers skipper, Adam Gilchrist, after a brutal 35-ball knock of 85 to effectively sew up semi-final victory for his side against Delhi on Friday, said: "It's a two-horse race and anyone can win in the final."
Gilchrist has favoured chasing a target in recent matches and he has batsmen at his disposal who can rake in the boundaries. There is no cleaner hitter than Gilchrist himself, but there is also Andrew Symonds, Rohit Sharma and Herschelle Gibbs, although the last-named batsman has the infuriating habit of mixing half-centuries with an equal number of ducks. Sharma, named the Citi Under-23 Success of the Tournament, scored 333 runs in the league stages and took 11 wickets, which makes him an extremely valuable member of the Chargers line-up.
The Chargers also have the wearer of the purple cap, RP Singh, leading the attack, with fine seam support from Australian Ryan Harris, who struck twice in the first over of the semi-final against Delhi.
Both captains in the final are vying for the leading awards in the tournament. Gilchrist, on 495 runs, can overtake the orange cap wearer, Chennai's Matthew Hayden (572 runs) if he comes up with another big innings on Sunday. Kumble, on 17 wickets, is five behind RP Singh.
It was encouraging for Gilchrist to see his side lift their intensity levels in their semi-final victory. "We started the tournament with a lot of energy (the Chargers won their first four matches in the 2009 DLF IPL season). Tonight (Friday) we played with a lot of energy again and hopefully we can close it all out the same way," Gilchrist added.
Kumble has led the Challengers astutely after they had a poor start under Kevin Pietersen. Bangalore are on a run of five wins in a row, and Kumble's wish was for just one more. As he put it after winning Saturday's semi-final comfortably: "One more win will be nice."
Bangalore does have a very strong array of batsmen they can choose from, with South African Jacques Kallis the most prolific with 346 runs. Then there's Rahul Dravid, Ross Taylor and Virat Kohli, who have all collected at least 239 runs. And let's not leave out Pandey, who has scored 164 runs in three innings, and the feisty wicketkeeper Mark Boucher, who has scored 145 runs in eight visits to the crease.
The saying is that bowlers win you matches, but the sides certainly have plenty of hitters to make for a final flush with runs.