RCB have a tough route to traverse

RCB have a tough route to traverse

Kumbles men take on Victoria Bushrangers

Like fellow IPL franchisees Delhi Daredevils, Anil Kumble’s team faces the unenviable task of winning both its League B fixtures if it is to make it to the last four of the competition.

Without a point going into the second stage, the Challengers’ first test is on Thursday, against Victoria Bushrangers who, like Cape Cobras, carry two points forward by virtue of their victory over fellow qualifiers from preliminary Group D, the Daredevils.

For most of the business end of IPL II in South Africa earlier this year, the
Challengers found themselves needing to win every game to qualify for the knockout stage and, therefore, the current scenario isn’t an unfamiliar one.

The unfamiliarity, however, stems from precious little first-hand knowledge of Thursday’s opposition, though in these days of readily available video footage, there are few secrets anymore in the cricketing world.

As they showed on Monday against the Otago Volts, the Challengers are at their most dangerous when pushed into a corner.  That’s exactly where they are now, so the Bangalore faithfuls have every reason to believe Kumble’s boys will rise to the challenge manfully.

Brilliantly served by the top order in their first two matches, the Challengers will require a formidable batting line-up to again come to the party on Thursday. The Chinnaswamy stadium surface has fulfilled the demands of Twenty20 cricket -- reasonable pace, even bounce, little lateral movement -- admirably. With Jacques Kallis and Ross Taylor in the forefront and the Indian trio of Robin Uthappa, Virat Kohli and Rahul Dravid chipping in handsomely, the Challengers’ batting looks in fine fettle, though they can expect a sterner test from the likes of Shane Harwood, Peter Siddle and Clint McKay.

Despite rolling over the Otago Volts for just 108 the other day, there are obvious weaker links in the Challengers’ bowling, necessitating Kallis, Praveen Kumar, Kumble and Roelof van der Merwe to step up to the plate.

A case can be made out for Dale Steyn to replace Mark Boucher, with Uthappa donning the big gloves, an idea that will occupy the attention of the management team of Kumble and coach Ray Jennings.

The Bushrangers, flying high after their commanding victory over the Daredevils last week, were brought down to earth on Tuesday when the Wayamba Elevens outwitted them in a low-scoring encounter at the much-maligned Feroze Shah Kotla. The Bushrangers played the rules beautifully, targeting the nett run rate rather than an outright victory in a bid to secure qualification.

With momentum a largely over-rated concept in the T20 format, it is unlikely that Cameron White will read too much into Tuesday’s debacle, though the one-time Royal Challenger will know better than most of the flair and substance Bangalore bring with them.

The prolific Brad Hodge, repeatedly overlooked by Australia, will be the Bushrangers’ batting lynchpin, but T20 games are seldom won by mere individual brilliance. The collective might of the Challengers aren’t unaware of that.