Dubai: Royal Challengers Bangalore will be ready to avenge the mauling they suffered at the hands of Kolkata Knight Riders in the UAE leg of IPL 2021 when the two teams meet in the Eliminator in Sharjah on Monday.
Bangalore batsmen were caught on the wrong foot by Kolkata and were dismissed for 92 at the Shaikh Zayed Stadium in Abu Dhabi last month. That match provided the turning point for both teams, who have then gone on from strength to strength to finish third and fourth, respectively, in the table at the end of the league phase.
However, things are a lot different now and the Eliminator will provide a big test for the Kolkata bowlers against an array of in-form Royal Challengers batsmen. The last-ball win against Delhi Capitals on Friday should act as a huge confidence-booster to Bangalore.
The advantage Bangalore have is that the batting line-up has been tested several times with Devdutt Padikkal, Glenn Maxwell and KS Bharat taking the responsibility of giving the team the required runs in setting the targets or while chasing.
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Even skipper Virat Kohli has got a few knocks under his belt, but the lack of form of AB de Villiers must be still rankling the team management. However, it should not be a cause for worry as Mr 360 can raise his game on the big stage and he can change the complexion of the game in a matter of balls.
Kolkata, on the other hand, have been steamrolling their opponents with a brave brand of cricket and it should be no different in the Eliminator. The KKR spinners Varun Chakravarthy, Sunil Narine and Shakib Al Hasan must be licking their lips in anticipation to get the ball on a spinning Sharjah wicket, which could make them more dangerous. It still remains to be seen if Andre Russell has passed the fitness test to return to the squad.
However, if Kolkata need to be guarded in one area is that their batting has largely revolved around the top three batsmen — Venkatesh Iyer, Shubman Gill and Rahul Tripathi — and a couple of cameos from Nitish Rana. The middle order is largely untested, rather non-existent with both the present captain Eoin Morgan and former captain Dinesh Karthik still without a big score to their name.
If Bangalore could strike early, then it will put Kolkata on the backfoot straight away and will also give a gaping hole for Royal Challengers to sneak through in this knockout encounter. The added incentive for the RCB players is that they could give skipper Kohli a winning send-off as the master batsman has announced that he will relinquish his captaincy at the end of the current season.
Catch the match
Royal Challengers Bangalore vs Kolkata Knight Riders
Sharjah Cricket Stadium, from 6 pm UAE