Hurt Challengers look to regroup

Hurt Challengers look to regroup

Hurt Challengers look to regroup

Royal Challengers Bangalore's search for victory outside the comfort of their home ground continues. Unbeaten at Chinnaswamy Stadium this season, it is time they asserted their class at other venues too. After a forgettable outing in Mumbai, they have arrived at the fortress of Rajasthan Royals, who are also yet to lose a match at home.

Royals, under the calm influence of Rahul Dravid, have proved to be tough opponents at the Sawai Man Singh Stadium. They have made clever use of the home conditions and drubbed even a star-studded team like Mumbai Indians, inflicting their heaviest IPL defeat on them. They are fresh from their eight-wicket victory over Sunrisers Hyderabad and must be eager to repeat the show.

The slow conditions here demand patience. RCB will have to quickly put behind their 54-run loss to Mumbai to consolidate their position on the table. With six wins from nine matches, they have 12 points while Royals have 10 from 8 matches, with five wins.

RCB certainly have the ammunition. Chris Gayle, the most fearsome hitter of the cricket ball, has been in roaring form, evident from his unbeaten 175 against Pune Warriors India. How much his wicket means to the bowlers was evident from the way Harbhajan Singh broke into wild celebrations the other night. Such has been the aura of Gayle that it has overshadowed top-class batsmen like Tillakaratne Dilshan, Ab de Villiers and Virat Kohli. De Villiers and Kohli, in particular, have been in splendid touch and their partnerships in the middle-order have formed the backbone of Bangalore’s run-making when the top-order has not clicked.

Against Dravid’s poise, young Kohli brings raw aggression to RCB. The side has worn a professional look and been sharp on the field too, but the bowling has not been their best point. Though Ravi Rampaul has delivered with the new ball, his performances have lacked consistency, much like his fast bowling colleagues R Vinay Kumar, Jaydev Unadkat and R P Singh. With a spate of away ties waiting, RCB need to shore up their performances.

What has been encouraging for Royals has been the return to form of Shane Watson. The muscular Australian sprinted to the first century of this season, though in a losing cause against Chennai, before hammering Hyderabad with a 53-ball 98. Watson, on his day, could well be the answer to Gayle and Royals would be hoping for him to deliver on Monday.

Dravid and Rahane opened in the last match and succeeded in giving the team a positive start. Watson, who opened with Rahane in earlier matches, executed the role of demolisher at No 3. Stuart Binny, experienced Brad Hodge and Dishant Yagnik are capable of making useful contributions.

Among the bowlers, Royals notched up another first when James Faulkner had the first five-wicket haul of the season in their last match. In Ajit Chandila, they have an off-spinner who can contribute by bowling to his field and Kevin Cooper, with his variety, is capable of holding his own. Their seven-wicket loss to RCB when they met last in Bangalore will be playing on their mind. They will be eager to even out things.

At the end of the day, it is a match-up between two ‘Royals’ and holds all ingredients of an absorbing contest.

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