Royal Challengers Bangalore are beginning to get their act together and they will face another stiff test in their IPL 2019 playoff hunt when they host Chennai Super Kings on Sunday.
RCB survived a mighty scare in their last game against KKR after Andre Russell and Nitish Rana almost pulled off a monumental run chase in pursuit of 214. In a way, Bangalore needed that break as it was just their second win of a bruising season.
Chennai will be an even more challenging opposition as they do not rely on just one or two players. Bangalore wouldn’t want to recall the previous clash between the sides – the opening match of IPL 2019 – where spinners ran amok on a slow Chennai pitch to derail RCB’s innings for just 70. While a crumbling pitch was to be blamed for Bangalore’s performance, it was a sign of things to come with Virat Kohli’s side stumbling from one disappointment to the other.
All up to Kohli
Bangalore captain Kohli has been feeling the heat for some time. Questions were raised about his tactics after failing to win a single title yet still being retained as the captain. But when the pressure has been at the highest, Kohli has come up with the goods. Scores of 67 against KXIP and 100 against KKR secured the only two wins of the season for Bangalore.
If AB de Villiers doesn’t recover in time, it will be all down to Kohli and a resurgent Moeen Ali to provide the impetus with the bat.
While the Super Kings are on top of their game and the points table, the manner of defeat in their previous game against Sunrisers Hyderabad will be of some concern.
On a typically sluggish Hyderabad pitch – which suits Chennai’s play – CSK first struggled to a nothing score of 132-5 and then saw David Warner and Jonny Bairstow hit fifties in a facile chase.
They genuinely missed MS Dhoni in that game after the veteran decided to rest. He should come back into the team and provide some much needed guidance and lower order hitting. If Dhoni continues to remain out for what is thought to be an ongoing back issue, Chennai’s woes might continue.
RCB: Parthiv Patel (wk), Virat Kohli (c), AB De Villiers/Henrich Klaasen, Akshdeep Nath, Moeen Ali, Marcus Stoinis, Pawan Negi, Dale Steyn, Mohammed Siraj, Yuzvendra Chahal, Navdeep Saini
CSK: Shane Watson, Faf du Plessis, Suresh Raina, Ambati Rayudu, Kedar Jadhav, MS Dhoni/Sam Billings (wk), Ravindra Jadeja, Karn Sharma, Imran Tahir, Shardul Thakur, Deepak Chahar
Both teams currently have 10 points apiece after winning five matches each so far from their respective nine games.
It was KXIP who prevailed over Delhi in the reverse fixture held at Mohali with the visitors losing their final seven wickets for just eight runs in a dramatic batting collapse.
Will the young Delhi side be able to make amends for that defeat or will Ravi Ashwin’s men take another big step to secure their play-off qualification? Find out by following the ball-by-ball action from New Delhi below.
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Virat Kohli – Royal Challengers Bangalore (11 credits)
After his exquisite ton against Kolkata Knight Riders on Friday, it is hard to look beyond Virat Kohli for the batting slot given that the RCB skipper will be back on his home venue which has been traditionally been a batsman’s paradise.
With his team having no more margin for error, Kohli batted like a man possessed against KKR with his second 50 coming off just 17 deliveries.
The right-hander’s maiden ton of the season and fifth overall has now taken his run tally to 378 while he is averaging exactly 42.
With AB de Villiers a big doubt for the clash, Kohli will need to do the bulk of the run-scoring once again for RCB and the right-hander relishes these kinds of challenges.
The RCB and India skipper will also want to make amends for his side’s crushing defeat to the same opponents in the tournament opener.
Virat Kohli Scored his fifth hundred in T20 cricket.— Sarang Bhalerao (@bhaleraosarang) April 19, 2019
Took the onus upon himself in AB de Villiers’ absence.
Kohli’s five tons:
100*(63) v GL in 2016
108 (58) v RPS in 2016
109 (55) v GL in 2016
113 (50) v KXIP in 2016
100 (58) v KKR in 2019#KKRvRCB
Imran Tahir – Chennai Super Kings (9 credits)
While the Chinnaswamy stadium has been a batting hotbed over the years with no other IPL venue recording as many sixes, wrist-spinner Yuzvendra Chahal has shown that there is purchase available for the slower bowlers with five wickets in three appearances this season.
However, it is Chahal’s Chennai counterpart Imran Tahir who gets the nod due to his superior control and variations. The veteran leg-spinner is only behind Delhi’s Kagiso Rabada in the wicket-taking charts for the 2019 edition with 15 scalps to his name in nine matches.
While he has been CSK’s primary wicket-taking threat in the campaign, Tahir has also maintained an excellent economy-rate of just 5.67.
He will want to repeat his exploits against RCB in the campaign opener where he picked up 3-9 to help bowl out Kohli’s men for just 70 runs.
Moeen Ali – Royal Challengers Bangalore (9 credits)
After a poor start to his season, Moeen Ali has turned around things in style in the past week with the England all-rounder finally coming into his own.
The left-hander has been terrific in his last two outings for RCB which have both yielded half-centuries which have come at an electric pace.
Against Mumbai Indians, Moeen smashed a 32-ball 50 while also claiming two wickets with his off-spin in a fine all-round display. He followed that up with an even better innings against KKR on Friday where he accumulated 66 runs from just 28 deliveries to help RCB post a mammoth 213-4.
The Englishman can always be called upon to do a job with the ball and his five wickets in the campaign so far are testament to that. It is with the bat though that Moeen can inflict the most damage and based on the form he has shown over the last two fixtures, he can be expected to thrive again on Sunday.
MS Dhoni – Chennai Super Kings (9.5 credits)
A batting average of nearly 77 in T20 cricket over the course of nine games is largely unheard of but that is exactly what MS Dhoni has managed to achieve in CSK’s stupendous campaign so far.
The veteran skipper has once again been dousing fires lower down the order for his side and has already bailed the team out on multiple occasions.
Dependable is the adjective for Dhoni this season and the wicketkeeper batsman can be expected to maintain his consistency against RCB.
Plus, the Ranchi-born man is the one wicketkeeper you can expect to make things happen from even behind the stumps and as such, his inclusion should not even be a debate.
CAPTAIN – Moeen Ali
VICE CAPTAIN – MS Dhoni