And so, as a blockbuster second season of the IPL reaches its summit, two of its biggest success stories clash in the finale in Johannesburg. They also happen to be the two most unlikely sides given how they fared in 2008. Deccan Chargers and Royal Challengers Bangalore were the two bottom-placed teams then, now they've busted out of the basement and made the house their own.
Not many would have given Deccan or Bangalore a chance this year to get to the top four. But having pulled off amazing turnarounds and tasted difficult periods earlier in the tournament, both teams have undoubtedly deserved to get where they are today.
Deccan started with four wins, imposed themselves, stumbled, but got it together when it mattered. The manner in which they - rather their captain Adam Gilchrist - crushed Delhi Daredevils in the semi-final was stirring. Gilchrist has led the side well and has been their top run-getter for the second season running. Apart from RP Singh, owner of the purple cap, there haven't been true stand-out performers. Herschelle Gibbs has been inconsistent, Pragyan Ojha has lost some bite in the latter stages, and while Rohit Sharma and Andrew Symonds have contributed they haven't been stunning.
If Deccan have been inconsistent, Bangalore reached the worst level of desperation. The last match they lost in this tournament was the last they could afford to. And they have won their last five games, much like Australia's victorious campaign in the 1999 World Cup.
The major factor in Bangalore's rise has been Anil Kumble, who took over the captaincy from a beleaguered Kevin Pietersen. In 2008 Bangalore's selections of a few final XIs raised some eyebrows, but most unflattering was their habit of choking when victory was in front of them. Kumble changed all that by setting an example that the seniors followed.
Bangalore's younger Indian players didn't start off well at all, but the seniors' performances started to rub off. Praveen Kumar, Vinay Kumar and Virat Kohli have chipped in with vital contributions to keep the team buoyant in the competition. This has been a team that has paid a lot of attention to preparation.
On form - they've won five in a row, four of them against semi-finalists - Bangalore are a confident side and will be boosted by the knowledge that they beat Deccan last time. However, after forcefully knocking out the top-ranked side in the semi-finals, Deccan will be confident as they face their southern compatriots. Both Gilchrist and Kumble have handled the captaincy with aplomb, and will not want to let the slightest chance go abegging.
Form guide (completed matches, most recent first)
Watch out for
RP Singh v Manish Pandey: The IPL's highest wicket-taker against the latest young star to emerge. RP hasn't been at his best over the last few games, and Pandey has two Man-of-the-Match awards on the trot. During his century Pandey faced nine balls from RP, and took 20 runs, including a big six over long-on. RP has loads of experience to go with success against better batsmen, so how he varies his craft against an enthusiastic and trigger-happy opener is an intriguing battle.
Royal Challengers Bangalore: (probable) 1 Manish Pandey, 2 Jacques Kallis, 3 Roelof van der Merwe, 4 Rahul Dravid, 5 Ross Taylor, 6 Virat Kohli, 7 Robin Uthappa, 8 Mark Boucher (wk), 9 Praveen Kumar, 10 R Vinay Kumar, 11 Anil Kumble (capt.).
If D Ravi Teja recovers from a hamstring injury he may come back for Azhar Bilakhia. Ryan Harris should hold his place after that two-wicket first over against Delhi.
Deccan Chargers: 1 Adam Gilchrist (capt./wk), 2 Herschelle Gibbs, 3 T Suman, 4 Rohit Sharma, 5 Andrew Symonds, 6 Azhar Bilakhia/D Ravi Teja, 7 Venugopal Rao, 8 Harmeet Singh, 9 Pragyan Ojha, 10 Ryan Harris, 11 RP Singh.
Stats and trivia
- Eight batsmen have scored more than 350 in the tournament, but only one of them - Adam Gilchrist - will be on view in the final. Kallis, Bangalore's highest scorer, has an aggregate of 346.
- Teams chasing have won five out of six times in night games in Johannesburg. In all three games that Bangalore have played here, they've chased and won.
- Gilchrist has scored 86 runs off 63 balls in two innings against Bangalore. In contrast Kallis, Bangalore's highest run-scorer, has only scored 20 off 21 balls in two innings against Deccan. Pandey, though, scored 114 in just one game.
- Bangalore's five wins in a row equal's Chennai's winning streak earlier in the IPL, and is a record for this tournament.