For the first time this season, Royal Challengers Bangalore have picked up wins in successive matches, both away from home. Now with their campaign on the line, they return to home comforts to take on table-toppers Sunrisers Hyderabad. Irrespective of how other results pan out, wins in both their matches is non-negotiable for RCB, although mathematical possibilities could see them miraculously enter the playoffs even with just one win. That’s a route they wouldn’t want to take, however.
Each of their three recent wins, against Mumbai Indians, Delhi Daredevils and Kings XI Punjab, have been a result of stupendous bowling performances, led superbly by Umesh Yadav. Four of their wins overall have come while chasing, with either AB de Villiers making a half-century or Virat Kohli steering them through. Now against the best bowling attack of the tournament, they will need more players to up their game.
RCB concede 12.17 per over in the death overs, the highest by a team this season. Their ability to chase notwithstanding, a strong finish with the ball is mandatory, if they are to chase, against an attack that has a history of defending small targets. Sunrisers are already assured of a top-two finish. This means they could look at giving a few of their back-up players an opportunity without hampering the team’s balance. It’s also as good an opportunity as any for the misfiring Manish Pandey to hit form at the ground he calls home.
In the news
Wriddhiman Saha is recovering from a shoulder injury and should slot back in if the team management deems his recovery satisfactory. This could mean a return to the bench for Shreevats Goswami.
Sunrisers’ bowling might came to their rescue. They huffed and puffed to 146 after losing 7 for 34, but outstanding death bowling – they gave away just 19 off their last three overs – helped pull off a coup, with RCB falling five short.
Royal Challengers Bangalore 1 Virat Kohli (capt), 2 Parthiv Patel (wk), 3 Moeen Ali, 4 AB de Villiers, 5 Mandeep Singh, 6 Sarfaraz Khan, 7 Colin de Grandhomme, 8 Tim Southee, 9 Umesh Yadav, 10 Mohammed Siraj, 11 Yuzvendra Chahal
Sunrisers Hyderabad 1 Shikhar Dhawan, 2 Alex Hales, 3 Kane Williamson (capt), 4 Manish Pandey, 5 Deepak Hooda, 6 Shakib Al Hasan, 7 Shreevats Goswami/Wriddhiman Saha (wk), 8 Rashid Khan, 9 Bhuvneshwar Kumar, 10 Siddarth Kaul, 11 Sandeep Sharma
Kohli has scored 30 or more in four out of five RCB wins this season. Against Sunrisers, he’s made 473 at 59.1 and a strike rate of 145.1, so getting him out early is paramount. If you’re Sunrisers, your two best men for the job are Rashid Khan and Sandeep Sharma. The RCB captain has stuttered against legspin this season, managing just 75 runs from 65 balls and losing his wicket three times in eight innings. And while he has had his share of success against Sandeep, whom he has slapped for 56 runs in 33 balls, Kohli has fallen to him five times in eight innings.
RCB can look to counter the Alex Hales threat by bringing on his England teammate Moeen Ali. Hales has scored at a run a ball off the 17 balls he has faced from Moeen and perished to him twice in three innings. Hales, in fact, has struggled against all kinds of spin bowlers this season. He has 22 runs off the 31 balls he has faced from them and perished to them twice in three innings.
Stats that matter
RCB have won three of the last five meetings between these two sides at this venue. And the players to have won it for them (no prizes for guessing): de Villiers twice and Kohli once.
Since Sunrisers came into existence, RCB have never held a superior head-to-head record against them. While they were even in the first three seasons with one victory each, Sunrisers have bettered RCB in each of the last three seasons: 2-1 in 2016, and 1-0 in 2017 and 2018.
De Villiers feasts on this Sunrisers bowling attack. None of Sunrisers’ main bowlers has a favourable record against de Villiers. Overall, he has plundered 380 runs off the 219 balls he has faced from them, averaging 42.2 and striking at 173.5.
Several big names are approaching important milestones. Kohli needs 68 runs to notch up 5000 career IPL runs, while Shikhar Dhawan is 70 away from 4000 and Kane Williamson needs 45 to hit 1000.
Dhawan is one of the reasons Sunrisers haven’t felt the absence of David Warner. He is their second-highest run-scorer and is now riding on successive half-centuries. Moreover, his record at the Chinnaswamy makes him a favourable pick: 246 runs in eight T20 innings at an average of 49.2 and a best of 73 not out.
Sandeep has had an outstanding IPL. His economy rate of 5.83 is the best this season and goes alongside eight wickets at 22.62. A proven, consistent performer who doesn’t really eat into your purse. What else do you need?