Bombay: Royal Challengers Bangalore, having found much-needed momentum towards the business end of IPL, will prop themselves up past an inconsistent Punjab Kings and get closer to a play-off spot on Friday.
After putting in a complete performance in their last two games, RCB seemed to have found their best combination.
Subject to Virat Kohlicall their batters are on top form with unbounded Rajat Patidar and Mahipal Lomror complementing seasoned pros such as skipper Faf du Plessis, Glenn Maxwell and Dinesh Karthik, who along with Gujarat’s Rahul Tewatia were among the top players of the tournament.
The bowling also impresses in the presence of in-form pacers Josh Hazlewood and the ever-reliable Harshal Patel. Mohammad Siraj hasn’t been at his best, but trust him to perform when the team wants it most.
Maxwell has been handy with his off-spin both in power play and middle overs, while Wanindu Hasaranga is one of the leading wicket takers in the tournament with 21 scalps including a five wicket haul.
“What we’re trying to improve as a team is to make sure that one of those top four creates a bit of a foundation. We have some strong hitters in the back.
“The games where we didn’t do so well, there was a big cluster of wickets in the power play. Of course you need some stability, but at the same time you have to make sure you don’t go into defensive mode,” said du Plessis after the huge win over SRH.
Kohli, who is in the midst of his worst IPL season, is getting an impact punch and that could come against Punjab. A win on Friday would take RCB to 16 points, although 18 appears to be a safe number for a play-off berth.
Punjab, who has three games left to play, must win them all to stand a chance of finishing in the top four. They had started their campaign with a win over RCB and are on 10 points with five wins and six losses.
The fact that they haven’t been able to win two games in a row sums up their inconsistent streak.
Shikhar Dhawan and Bhanuka Rajapaksa delivered to the top, as did Liam Livingstone and Jitesh Sharma finishing the innings. Jonny Bairstow finally got runs after being promoted to open the innings alongside Dhawan.
skipper Mayank Agarwalwho has moved himself downwards must lead from the front.
On the bowling front, Sandeep Sharma was neat but could use some wickets in the power play. Lead pacer Kagiso Rabada did well to take 18 wickets but netted nearly 9 runs per over.
Arshdeep Singh has been brilliant, especially in the death overs, impressing many with his ability to land Yorkers at will.
Despite having a solid team at their disposal, Punjab has been flattered to cheat and they must improve their game before it is too late again.
Royal Challengers Bangalore: Faf du Plessis (C), Virat Kohli, Glenn Maxwell, Mohammed Siraj, Harshal Patel, Wanindu Hasaranga, Dinesh Karthik, Josh Hazlewood, Shahbaz Ahmed, Anuj Rawat, Akash Deep, Mahipal Lomror, Finn Allen, Shelfane Rutherford, Jason Behrendorff, Suyash Prabhudesai, Chama Milind, Aneeshwar Gautam, Karn Sharma, David Willey, Rajat Patidar, Siddharth Kaul.
Punjab Kings: Shikhar Dhawan, Mayank Agarwal (C), Arshdeep Singh, Kagiso Rabada, Jonny Bairstow, Rahul Chahar, Harpreet Brar, Shahrukh Khan, Prabhsimran Singh, Jitesh Sharma, Ishan Porel, Liam Livingstone, Odean Smith, Sandeep Sharma, Raj Angad Bawa, Rishi Dhawan, Prerak Mankad, Vaibhav Arora, Writtick Chatterjee, Baltej Dhanda, Ansh Patel, Nathan Ellis, Atharva Taide, Bhanuka Rajapaksa, Benny Howell.
Match starts 7.30pm IST.
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