Royal Challengers Bangalore are proving themselves to be the ultimate fighters. Waddling at the bottom of the table till last week, their resurgence has been captivating since then.
Match after match, they have baulked the threat of elimination under the inspiring captaincy and batsmanship of Virat Kohli. They now face a final hurdle, in their ambition of making the play-offs, in Delhi Daredevils who revived their campaign with a thrilling last-ball victory against table toppers Sunrisers Hyderabad.
The six-wicket victory on Friday night at their adopted home venue in Shaheed Veer Narayan Singh International stadium here propped them to 14 points from 13 matches, that include seven wins and six defeats, for their sixth place.
The statistics are identical to RCB’s but the Bengaluru unit boasts of a far superior run rate of +0.933 to be at the third place. For both teams, their last league match on Sunday becomes a crucial affair.
The city was hit by brief rain and thunderstorm on Saturday to deny Daredevils their scheduled training. Both teams would be praying that rain keeps away on Sunday.
The RCB had lost five of their first seven games before winning five of the next six. Their turnaround has chiefly come on the strength of their astounding batting with their bowling attack, despite its limitations, finding a way to defend. Kohli has only grown in stature as he spurred this beleaguered unit by demonstrating what an individual can achieve.
Blazing with a fierce stand-alone spirit, Kohli has shattered conventional norms and records. His form has been irrepressible. By racking up most runs in an IPL edition through his four hundreds and five 50’s, he has dropped jaws across the cricketing world. The fearless exhibition of big and clean strikes has been the hallmark of his recent batting. He scored a match-winning knock against KKR despite a split webbing on his left hand and followed it up with a century in a rain-truncated match of 15 overs against Kings XI.
With the dangerous AB De Villiers forming an enviable pairing with him and Chris Gayle cutting the slack to roar back to form, RCB seems to peaking at the right time. One, however, cannot rule out the contribution of KL Rahul who has shown the flexibility to score runs both at the top and the middle-order besides donning the gloves.
The bowling, too, is looking tidy with Shane Watson leading the charge in the absence of a genuine tearaway. Leg-spinner Yuzvendra Chahal has been among the highest wicket-takers with left-armer Sreenath Arvind impressing during the powerplay.
The RCB bowling will have to be alert against the young batsmen of Daredevils who has been bubbling with confidence. Karun Nair with his third half-century of the season, an unbeaten 83, kept the Delhi side afloat in the tournament against Sunrisers. He, alongwith Quinton De Kock and Sanju Samson, has formed the core of Delhi top-order. Delhi has been sticking to their horses for courses policy, which has always kept the opposition guessing about their batting order. They will be persisting with it while hoping their key all-rounder Chris Morris recovers from the niggle which kept him away from the previous game.
The pitch here has plenty of cracks and showed appreciable turn in the first match. The Daredevils bowling, led by the wily Zaheer Khan, has enough ammunition in leg-spinners Amit Mishra, Imran Tahir and JP Duminy, to take advantage of the surface. However, Kohli and Co, who have been building targets of 200-plus with regularity, would only be eager to take on the challenge. The searing temperature here would certainly match the intensity of the contest on Sunday.