Resurgent RCB face Kings XI test

Challengers, Punjab look to maintain winning momentum

Resurgent RCB face Kings XI test

If cricket is a game of uncertainties it is well illustrated in a Twenty20 contest. The Royal Challengers Bangalore defied the odds to snatch a thrilling 15-run victory over Delhi Daredevils at home, and Kings XI Punjab, under the debut captaincy of the Glenn Maxwell, subdued a star-packed Rising Pune Supergiants by six wickets.

The two winners, bustling with confidence, will now face each other on Monday at the Holkar stadium. The venue, scheduled to hold three IPL matches, is the adopted home venue of Kings XI for the season. They have started with a bang against Pune, but RCB can offer a challenge of a different kind.

Despite a depleted stock, Bangalore have shown the nerve to fight. They lost their opening contest to defending champions Sunrisers Hyderabad but were remarkably resilient in their defense of an inadequate 157 against Daredevils.

However, in the absence of Virat Kohli and AB De Villiers, their batting appears a bit flaky and critically centers around Chris Gayle, Shane Watson and Kedar Jadhav.

If Watson opens, the way he did on Saturday, the middle order might wear a vulnerable look. At No. 4, Jadhav was magnificent with his timing and calculated batsmanship but Stuart Binny and Pawan Negi did not inspire the same confidence. 

Travis Head had looked in good touch in the opener but lost his place to seamer Billy Stanlake, who gave a good account of himself against the Daredevils.

One of the biggest takeaways for RCB was the plucky captaincy of Watson. The decision to bowl the last over from left-arm spinner Negi, who had not bowled in the match, against the left-handed and dangerous Rishab Pant reflected shrewd thinking.

Throughout the intense contest the Australian marshalled his troops skillfully and bowled astutely, especially the 19th over that changed the complexion of the game. 

Against the power hitters of Kings, RCB have to get their bowling composition right. They have some good options in seamers Tymal Mills and Stanlake and besides a wicket-taker in the miserly and accurate leg-spinner Yuzvendra Chahal.

With Virender Sehwag at the helm of affairs for Punjab, the contest wouldn’t be without its share of tactical innovations. Against Pune, when Kings lost their No 3 Wriddhiman Saha to leggie Imran Tahir, Axar Patel was sent at No 4 ahead of Maxwell, David Miller, and Marcus Stoinis. 

Kings must be delighted with the way Maxwell anchored the chase against Pune (44 n.o.) and made an impressive start to his captaincy.

Kings’ bowling is without the big names, but Sandeep Sharma shines with with his accuracy and consistency. Mohit Sharma and newcomer T Natarajan are the other seaming options with Axar leading the spin department.

To counter the challenge of Kings, RCB have to outthink the hosts, and outdo the belligerence they possess in batting.

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