Royal Challengers unlikely to allow dip in intensity

Royal Challengers unlikely to allow dip in intensity

Royal Challengers Bangalore have resembled a single-minded army force while stitching together a record seven-match winning streak and a large chunk of credit has been attributed to Chris Gayle for that.

Without a modicum of doubt, Gayle’s intimidating presence at the pole position has been a massive factor in the Challengers’ impressive run. His bludgeoning ways have instilled in them oodles of confidence and fear in their rivals. But three relatively less obvious factors have also contributed to RCB’s growth as a fearsome unit and their ascent to the top of the points table – bowling, fielding and the skill to adapt to different situations.  
In the initial stages of IPL IV, RCB were below par in bowling and fielding, but they improved tremendously as the tournament has progressed. Now, they are a well-rounded unit with all three departments functioning like a well-oiled machine, giving them a huge edge over Kings XI Punjab, their opponents in Tuesday’s match here at the Himachal Pradesh Cricket Association stadium.

It was their all-round ability that spurred the Royal Challengers to an 85-run win over Kings XI when they met at the Chinnaswamy stadium on May 6, and that match could be utilised to construe the Royal Challengers’ leap to the top. Gayle buccaneered his way to a 49-ball 107, firing the Bangalore outfit to 205 for six. The target was not beyond the Kings XI batting line-up consisting of  Adam Gilchrist, Paul Valthaty, Shaun Marsh and Dinesh Kaarthick, all capable of producing match-winning innings.

 But the Royal Challengers strangled them with accurate spells and agile efforts on the field, restricting Punjab to 120. They repeated that good performance against Kochi Tuskers Kerala, Rajasthan Royals and Kolkata Knight Riders in subsequent matches, underscoring their growing cohesiveness.

Pace spearhead Zaheer Khan was a generous run-supplier in the beginning stages of the tournament, evidenced by a run-rate in excess of nine after the first five matches. However, the experienced left-arm quick bridled his expensive ways soon, and his economy rate has dwindled to a more respectable 7.97. Now, the left-hander appears to be in superb rhythm and control of his craft, two aspects that make him a dreaded customer.

Along with Zaheer’s improvement, the Royal Challengers’ attack has been bolstered by the surfacing of S Arvind as a bowler capable of winning matches on his own. The left-arm medium-pacer produced a wondrous spell when Kings XI visited Bangalore. His 4-0-14-4 was the highlight of RCB’s romp, and from that point the Karnataka lad has performed commendably with the new ball or as one-change bowler.

The injury-enforced absence of regular skipper Daniel Vettori, who shouldered the bowling department admirably till he had to return to New Zealand to tend to his hurt knee, could have been a big jolt, but South African pacer Charl Langeveldt stepped in and bowled beautifully against the Royals and the Knight Riders.

Virat Kohli made sure Vettori the skipper wouldn’t be missed, marshalling the troops with characteristic enthusiasm and astuteness that belied his young age, indicative of the team’s adaptive skills. The Royal Challengers management has also showed the sagacity to rid AB de Villiers of wicketkeeping duty, and the move has fetched handsome dividends.

The electrifying presence of De Villiers has given Bangalore’s fielding a new sharpness and the catch he pulled off at point to dismiss Gautam Gambhir a few days back will be embossed in memory for a long time.

The Royal Challengers have emphatically shed the tag of a batting-heavy unit in the last seven matches, dishing out collective efforts and the ability to contribute as a team will be their most potent weapon against Kings XI.
The Punjab side has staged a late resurgence, drubbing Mumbai Indians, the Tuskers and Delhi Daredevils in their last three matches, but in Royal Challengers, they have a far more focused and ambitious foe.


Teams (from):
Royal Challengers Bangalore: Virat Kohli (capt), Chris Gayle, Luke Pomersbach, AB de Villiers, Mohammad Kaif, KB Arun Karthik, Saurabh Tiwary, A Mithun, Zaheer Khan, S Arvind, Charl Langeveldt, Abrar Kazi, Asad Pathan, Johan van der Wath, Jonathan Vandiar, Jamaluddin Syed Mohammad, Mayank Agarwal, Nuwan Pradeep, Bhareth Narayanan, Ryan Ninan, CM Gautam, Rilee Rossouw.

Kings XI Punjab: Adam Gilchrist (capt), Paul Valthaty, Shaun Marsh, Dinesh Kaarthick, David Hussey, Mandeep Singh, Piyush Chawla, Ryan Harris, Praveen Kumar, Shalabh Srivastava, Bhargav Bhatt, Abhishek Nayar, Bipul Sharma, Love Ablish, Sunny Singh, Nathan Rimmington, Dimitri Mascarenhas, Siddharth Chitnis, Vikramjeet Malik, Paras Dogra, Nitin Saini, Amit Yadav.

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