Kolkata: Virat Kohli’s return to form and a rather dramatic entry into the IPL play-offs will make Royal Challengers Bangalore a more confident unit when they face a top heavy Lucknow Super Giants in the Eliminator here on Wednesday.
After a string of low scores, Kohli found his rhythm heading for a sparkling 54-ball 73 in their final game against Gujarat Titans†
This was his only second fifty this season, a visual treat to the eyes that encapsulated all the Kohli-esque shots as RCB kept their hopes alive with a nice win.
But their fate was not in their own hands as they anxiously awaited a victory for the Mumbai Indians in their match against Capitals of Delhi to secure entry into the play-offs.
Kohli’s return to form will be a big plus for their top order, which has often struggled to get going in power play.
Add to that the newly discovered performance of Dinesh Karthik, a quality pace trio in Josh Hazlewood, Wanindu Hasaranga and Harshal Patel looking to embrace the seam-friendly Eden conditions, and the calm and astute captain of Faf du Plessis, RCB will be optimistic in their quest for an elusive IPL title.
Having played in three IPL finals, RCB is a star-studded outfit that has failed to live up to its fans’ expectations time and time again.
But this time under a three-time IPL winner in du Plessis, RCB looks more balanced, especially in terms of pace bowling.
Even when Indian speedster Mohammed Siraj (eight wickets from 13 matches) failed to impress, the trio of Hazlewood, Hasaranga and Harshal with 57 wickets between them formed their backbone.
With new numbers for the knockouts, the trio would love to take up the challenge
Another big plus for RCB this season has been the new found form of Indian veteran wicketkeeper batter Karthik with the bat which also saw a comeback in India ahead of the T20 World Cup.
Karthik, who was given the role of finisher, the 36-year-old, who was bought by RCB for Rs 5.50 crore, has played a key role in their qualification for the play-offs.
With 287 runs from 14 innings, of which he was unbeaten nine times, Karthik has a great attack of 191.33.
RCB’s batting experience will certainly weigh heavily against the young LSG pace attack of Avesh Khan and Mohsin Khan.
Lucknow also has veteran duo of Jason Holder and Dushmanta Chameera, but they have been inconsistent this season, something that could be a source of concern for the KL Rahul-led outfit.
A key battle for RCB would be against the Lucknow Super Giants opening duo of KL Rahul and Quinton de Kock – by far the best opening pair of this IPL – who are quite the second and third in the list of best performing getters.
That they have scored 1039 runs together – including the highest opening partnership in IPL history of 210 against Kolkata Knight Riders – summarize their dominance.
But this will also be the team’s weakness as the Lucknow franchise lacks a middle and lower order quality except for Deepak Hooda who has four half-centuries this season.
But other than the trio, no other batter has impressed to solidify the mid- and lower-order.
The likes of Marcus Stoinis, Krunal Pandya, Ayush Badoni and Holder have failed to impress and it’s about time they got down to business in a virtual quarter-final.
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 and Siddharth Kaul
Lucknow Super Giants: KL Rahul (c), Manan Vohra, Evin Lewis, Manish Pandey, Quinton De Kock, Ravi Bishnoi, Dushmantha Chameera, Mohsin Khan, Mayank Yadav, Ankit Rajpoot, Avesh Khan, Andrew Tye, Marcus Stoinis, Kyle Mayers, Karan Sharma, Krishnappa Gowtham, Ayush Badoni, Deepak Hooda, Krunal Pandya and Jason Holder.
Start match: 7.30 pm.
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