Challengers look to bounce back

After a setback against CSK, hosts face tricky Kings XI Punjab

Challengers look to bounce back

Smarting from another bitter loss to Chennai Super Kings, the Royal Challengers Bangalore face tricky opponents in bottom-dwellers Kings XI Punjab who have the potential to play party-poopers.

Just before the defeat to Super Kings in Chennai on Monday, the Royal Challengers were on a fine surge, raking up three wins from four matches -- one was a no result due to heavy rain after they had compiled an impressive 200/7 -- as the pieces slowly started to fall together.

RCB appeared on course of breaking CSK’s stranglehold on them too when they restricted the two-time champions to a modest 148/9 with the bowlers, led brilliantly again by Mitchell Starc, doing a fine job on a slow-paced wicket.

Going steadily with skipper Virat Kohli in fine nick and wicketkeeper Dinesh Karthik showing signs of a resurgence in form, RCB were given another exemplary display of CSK’s all-round brilliance, especially by Dwayne Bravo. The athletic West Indian picked up the ball on his follow-through and rattled the stumps in a flash with Kohli walking to the dug-out totally dazed.

That wicket led to a mini-collapse and the Royal Challengers never recovered before crashing to a 24-run defeat which pacer Harshal Patel termed very painful during the post-match press conference.

Having said that, until the CSK blow, the Royal Challengers looked to be peaking at the right time. The domestic batsmen, especially Sarfaraz Khan and Mandeep Singh, started to find their feet while Indian pacers Varun Aaron and Harshal also discovered their mojo.

With Starc in a league of his own and leg-spinner Yuzvendra Chahal continuing to impress match after match, the Royal Challengers have the firepower to make the push for a play-off berth. With CSK and Rajasthan Royals occupying the top two spots on 14 points, a mad scramble is on for the remaining two spots with all, including Kings XI Punjab, capable of securing them.

With Royal Challengers on nine points and plenty of teams sniffing around their throat, a win would help to ease the tension.

Things, however, may not be as easy as RCB expect. Although Kings XI Punjab (4 points) look ripe for the taking. they have won nine ut of their 14 meetings in IPL so far, including the last four. Just like CSK, Kings XI has been one thorn in RCB’s flesh and nothing would please George Bailey’s men than inflcting another wound.

Failure of stars

Kings XI, who were tipped as one of the teams to watch out following their superb run last year, have flattered to deceive. Unsurprisingly, the management chose not to tinker the squad and picked only three players at the auctions in February. Sadly though, stars of the previous season have failed to find their lustre this year with the biggest disappointment being the maverick Glenn Maxwell.

The Australian World Cup winner, who hammered 552 runs last season, has flopped big time this year, managing a mere 74 runs from six outings which has had a huge say in the team’s fortunes.

With very little time left and their qualification hopes in tatters unless a major turnaround occurs, Kings XI would be hoping to better RCB for a fifth straight time. The hosts, though, will be eyeing nothing less than a payback to boost their play-off chances.

DH News Service

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