Dubai: Virat Kohli’s Royal Challengers Bangalore will be looking to make it three in three when they take on Kolkata Knight Riders in today’s Indian Premier League double header.
And while tabletoppers RCB, the only team to have won both its matches in this year’s tournament, lock horns with two-time champions KKR at the MA Chidambaram Stadium in Chennai (2pm UAE time), the second match of the day features a face-off between fourth placed Delhi Capitals and Punjab Kings at Mumbai’s Wankhede Stadium (6pm).
RCB are riding the crest of success and have been in top form, but honestly they haven’t put their matches to bed as they would have liked to as they only managed to scrape to a two-wicket win against Mumbai Indians in their opening match and then with a bit of luck edged Sunrisers Hyderabad by six runs in their last match.
Kohli will be more than aware that the results of both games could very well have swung the way of RCB’s rivals, with KKR definitely not among the ones they have bullied over the years.
Their win loss record against the Eoin Morgan-led KKR stands at 12:14 and while that might not be a stat worthy of forecasting what will happen at the Chidambaram, RCB will have to be at their very best in all departments if they are to pick that third straight victory.
Chasing MI’s 159/9, RCB got home off the last ball of their innings finishing with 160/8. Then, against SRH, they set a modest 149/8 and watched nervously as a minor last over implosion from their rivals rescued them.
Shahbaz Ahmed had the best figures there with 3/7 from two, while Harshal Patel has had a fine tournament so far and followed up his 5/27 against MI with 2/25 against SRH, the same as Mohammed Siraj posted in the match.
As far as bowling is concerned RCB appear to have done nothing wrong so far, but the same cannot be said in terms of batting. Kohli’s 33 in the second consecutive game and Glenn Maxwell’s 59 aided RCB’s 149 against SRH, while AB de Villiers’ 27 ball 48 at the end was crucial in helping Bangalore get over the line against MI. Maxwell scored 39 on that occasion, showing RCB have depended solely on the trio. That must change against KKR, who set SRH a target of 188 and won that opening game by 10 runs, but themselves imploded against MI in their second match and lost by as many runs.
Nitish Rana (80) and Rahul Tripathi (53) were terrific against SRH and the former scored a second tournament fifty (57) against MI with Shubman Gill (33) lending a helping hand. But here too it’s just been a trio that’s helped with the bat.
In terms of bowling, dismissing MI’s potent batting attack for a meagre 152 might be massive positive for KKR, but their bowlers have been far from consistent, with even Andre Russell, who took 5/15 against Mumbai, going for over 10 an over against SRH.
All in all even though it seems bowling might dictate the outcome at the MAC tonight, it might be a standout batting performance that actually seals the fate of the match.
Punjab Kings will hope to relegate their latest performance against Chennai Super Kings to history when they take on Delhi Capitals in the later game at the Wankhede.
KL Rahul’s Punjab have blown hot and cold so far this year. They scored the highest score of 221 and also the lowest of 106 and such inconsistency is a worrying factor especially when you have a bowling unit that is not up to the mark as was seen when Rajasthan Royals nearly outplayed them as they fell short by four runs in their chase of 221. CSK gained from their batting misery, with MS Dhoni’s men getting home in 15.4 overs despite adopting a rather unhurried approach.
Rahul, Chris Gayne and Deepak Hooda were the major contributors to their score in their opening match, but all failed against CSK for whom Deepak Chahar returned figures of 4/13. Chahar was good but what really did PBKS in was a complete lack of shot selection skills.
Rahul can be half-excused for getting himself run out but Gayle and Hooda holed out impetuously. Shahrukh Khan brought some respectability (if you want to call it that) to PBKS’s total but 106 is just never good enough in any format.
Pacemen Mohammad Shami and Arshdeep Singh have shown consistency with the ball and each has four scalps so far, while Aussie quicks Jhye Richardson and Riley Meredith have both failed to justify their high price tags and have been mediocre to put it lightly.
Delhi’s batting will honestly be the first major test for PBKS’ bowling, as Prithvi Shaw and Shikhar Dhawan look to reverse their last match form and Rishabh Pant appearing to find his mojo in that slender low-scoring defeat by Rajasthan Royals.
The Capitals have the advantage with the ball for sure with South African Anrich Nortje set to spearhead the bowing alongside compatriot Kagiso Rabada, who took two in his first match against the Royals.
Nortje is looking forward to the tournament after missing the first two games due to being in quarantine. ““There’s no team that’s got a bad team so every side is really competitive, and it can come off for anyone on any day. We are definitely not going to underestimate anyone and hopefully we can bring our A-game,” he said.
“We have got a great bowling line-up. It’s just about picking the right team on the right wicket and conditions. We definitely have a lot of options in our bowling line-up, which is really nice to have and hopefully we can make the best of the conditions and the different players that we have got.”