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Underdogs ready for IPL Final

The Royal Challengers Bangalore trounced favourites Chennai Super Kings by six wickets at the Wanderers in Johannesburg on Saturday to set up a title clash in the second edition of the IPL on Sunday against the Deccan Chargers.

The wheel of fortune has come a full circle for the Challengers and the Chargers. Last seasonís objects of ridicule are the toast of the IPL this time around. The teams that finished seventh and eighth, respectively, in the inaugural edition have shown that reputations have no place in the unforgiving cauldron of Twenty20 cricket.

As if determined to purge memories of their disastrous run last year, the Deccan Chargers began the second season like a house on fire, sweeping all before them in the initial stages and making light of a mid-campaign stutter to sweep the Delhi Daredevils in the Fridayís first semifinal.

The Royal Challengers, by contrast, got off to a miserable beginning. A comprehensive first-match rout of Rajasthan Royals, the defending champions, appeared no more than a false dawn as, under Kevin Pietersen, the Bangalore side lost its next four matches.

By the time Pietersen left to fulfil England duties, the Challengers had two wins from six matches, and faced early elimination, again.

In an inspired move, the team management handed over the reins to Anil Kumble, and how fortunes have changed since!

The leg-spinner, a commanding presence as leader and lead performer, has led from the front, alternately coaxing, cajoling and coercing his team into delivering one stand-out performance after another.

The Royal Challengers stormed into the semifinals with four wins on the trot, and extended their winning run to five on Saturday.

The Chargers have had their heroes in established stars such as their own mercurial captain Adam Gilchrist, the tempestuous Herschelle Gibbs, Andrew Symonds and Rudra Pratap Singh, as well as in exceptional young talent best exemplified by Rohit Sharma.

The Challengers, likewise, have relied on proven match-winners ó the Kumbles, the Kallisses, the Dravids and the Bouchers, as well as Manish Pandey, a relative unknown until three days back but now the brightest young star on the Karnataka horizon.

Already, both the Challengers and the Chargers have far exceeded the expectations of their most die-hard supporters. Neither Kumble nor Gilchrist, however, will believe its Mission Accomplished, yet. Strap up, then, for a Super Sunday!

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