Challengers face tough Royals test

Bangalore, Rajasthan look for knock-out blow in Eliminator

Challengers face tough Royals test

Having held the upper hand over Rajasthan Royals twice this season, a confident Royal Challengers Bangalore will hope to land the knock-out blow when the two square-off in the IPL Eliminator here on Wednesday.

The first time the Royal Challenger Bangalore met the Rajasthan Royals this season, Steven Smith’s men had just lost their first game after having posted five straight wins. RCB gladly rubbed some salt into the RR’s wounds, galloping home to a crushing nine wicket win that sort of brought their campaign alive following a faltering start.

In the second meeting at the Chinnaswamy Stadium just five days after the first, the Royal Challengers set themselves for a fine double but rain had its own plans after it caused an abandonment, moments after the hosts had stacked up an imposing 200/7. Sharing seven wins each with two no results from the 16 meetings between them thus far, both Royal Challengers and inaugural champions Rajasthan Royals meet for the first time in a knock-out game. 

The Royal Challengers are, perhaps, the biggest underachievers of the IPL. Despite possessing a star-studded line-up right from the start of the league, they have simply flattered to deceive. Twice they’ve finished runners-up but surprisingly have only managed to make the cut to the business end on only four occasions, missing the bus in the last three years as well. However, the team is oozing with plenty of confidence now with both the batting and bowling clicking in tandem and a big name delivering whenever the team has been found wanting.

The biggest plus for the Royal Challengers has been the batting consistency of the ‘Big Three’ comprising Chris Gayle, Virat Kohli and AB de Villiers. All have raked in over 400 runs with both Gayle and de Villiers having clobbered sensational centuries to knock the stuffing out of their opponents.

Skipper Kohli, normally the aggressor in the Indian team, has quietly played second fiddle to the duo but leads the scorers list for RCB with 481 runs at a healthy strike rate of 133.98 to lead the team from the front.

Young Mandeep Singh and teenager Sarfaraz Khan have also made notable contributions and if wicket-keeper Dinesh Karthik can come good with the bat following an extremely ordinary season, it adds more substance to Royal Challengers’ batting.

Bowling, which had been their weak point at the start, has been performing well since the belated arrival of Mitchell Starc. While left-arm pacer S Arvind, still recovering from a finger injury, has made an instant impression since his homecoming, Harshal Patel, all-rounder David Wiese and Yuzvendra Chahal have been doing well too.

The Royals, who made a blistering start to the season before tailing off midway, have always been the team where the whole is greater than the sum of its parts. While they have Smith, Shane Watson, James Faulkner and Ajinkya Rahane, the ability of other lesser-ranked players to rise to the occasion has been their biggest driving factor. They saw off defending champions Kolkata Knight Riders in their final league game to book their spot in the play-offs with Watson cracking a century.

If Rajasthan fight as a team on Wednesday, the pressure will certainly be on the star-studded Royal Challengers. 

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