Resurgent RCB eye play-off push

Resurgent RCB eye play-off push

ON A HIGH Royal Challengers Bangalore will be hoping to string together another team performance when they take on Rajasthan Royals in the final league encounter on Saturday. DH PHOTO/ SRIKANTA SHARMA R

Jaipur: Like AB de Villiers’ 'Spiderman' act on Thursday night, Royal Challengers Bangalore (RCB) seem determined to pull off their own staggering finish. Their sudden resurgence, from the brink of elimination, has already created quite a stir and opened up the possibility of Indian Premier League play-offs berth.

Ahead of their ‘knockout’ clash against Rajasthan Royals on Saturday, RCB can boast of having confidence as well momentum, following their three consecutive wins.

Both RCB and Royals are at 12 points from 13 matches and a defeat in their last league match at Sawai Mansingh Stadium on Saturday will simply put them out of the play-offs race. With victories over Delhi Daredevils, Kings XI Punjab and table-toppers Sunrisers Hyderabad, RCB have swelled their net run-rate (NRR) to +0.264. They, thus, have snatched the fifth spot from Royals, who following their six-wicket defeat to Kolkata Knight Riders, sit at sixth place with a net run-rate of -0.403.

With contests getting tighter as the tournament runs its anchor leg, the two teams will also have to keep a tab on the progress of other franchises, especially Mumbai Indians and Kings XI Punjab.

For RCB, the hunger and desperation to secure qualification is palpable. They have had a terrible start, but woke up to their potential at the nick of time. The batting unit too has made an effort to step out of their over-reliance on captain Virat Kohli and de Villiers. The knock of Parthiv Patel against Punjab and contributions of Moeen Ali and Colin de Grandhomme against Hyderabad on Thursday have been reassuring.

Umesh Yadav has spearheaded the pace-attack with responsibility and has been quite effective during the Power Plays. He has been well complemented by Mohammed Siraj who has been showing his potential at the death overs. Leg-spinner Yuzvendra Chahal, too, seemed to have rediscovered his magic and he could play a decisive role on the slow surface here.

English absence 

If RCB miss Ali, who has inspired confidence with his all-round game, Royals will be hit hard by the absence of English players who have flown back for the national duty. The wicket-keeper-batsman Jos Buttler was late to find his form, but once he did, he became the pivot of Royals’ batting. Star all-rounder Ben Stokes made a low key impact, but remained a regular feature in the season. Sanju Samson has been the shining light with the bat but with captain Ajinkya Rahane not at his best, the absence of two Englishmen could compound problems for Royals.

Royals’ bowling spearhead Jaydev Unadkat has been expensive, but Jofra Archer has caught the eye in a short span. Karnataka’s off-spinner K Gowtham and leggie Shreyas Gopal have been good in patches and one expects Ish Sodhi, the other leg-spinner in the side, to lead the spin attack. They can afford little room for errors, for RCB is on a roll and loving the challenge of making impossible, possible.