Royal Challengers inch closer towards playoffs, Kings look to carry forward form

Royal Challengers inch closer towards playoffs, Kings look to carry forward form

Preview

Both teams are coming off wins and seem to have finally figured out their best combinations

Big picture

Both Royal Challengers Bangalore and Punjab Kings seem to have finally figured out what their best combinations are. They’ve also won their last games and are looking to put together the kind of rollicking streak that can seal a playoff spot early in the IPL.

Royal Challengers are significantly closer to that – they’re on 14 points with three games to go and have won their last two. Solving their domestic No. 3 conundrum by giving an extended run to Srikar Bharat has brought stability, and the return of Shahbaz Ahmed has been a move that’s brought them closer to the team that dominated in the first half of the tournament.

For the Kings, the chance to push each of their middle-order players some spots higher in the absence of Chris Gayle has created a sturdier batting since it has allowed Shahrukh Khan and Fabian Allen – bona-fide T20 finishers – to bat in more suitable positions. It also gives them flexibility in terms of bowling and all-round options, and although it’s only been one game so far, this might finally be a way that they’re able to break their reliance on the openers.

In the news

Fabian Allen appeared to be limping when he came in to bat against Kolkata Knight Riders on Friday. There is no official word on the type and extent of the injury.

Likely XIs

Royal Challengers Bangalore: 1 Virat Kohli (capt.), 2 Devdutt Padikkal, 3 Srikar Bharat (wk), 4 Glenn Maxwell, 5 AB de Villiers, 6 Shahbaz Ahmed, 7 Daniel Christian, 8 George Garton, 9 Harshal Patel, 10 Mohammed Siraj, 11 Yuzvendra Chahal

Punjab Kings: 1 KL Rahul (capt, wk), 2 Mayank Agarwal, 3 Nicholas Pooran, 4 Aiden Markram, 5 Deepak Hooda, 6 Shahrukh Khan, 7 Fabian Allen/Harpreet Brar, 8 Ravi Bishnoi, 9 Nathan Ellis/Chris Jordan, 10 Arshdeep Singh, 11 Mohammed Shami

Strategy punt

  • Mayank Agarwal has an incredible strike rate of 184 against Yuzvendra Chahal in T20s; but that has also come at a cost, with Chahal dismissing him four times in 37 balls. Royal Challengers could use Chahal in the powerplay to break that opening stand
  • Harpreet Brar has gone for 6.1 this IPL in five innings, with a Player-of-the-Match performance against RCB in Ahmedabad earlier this year when he dismissed Virat Kohli, AB de Villiers, and Glenn Maxwell. With Allen’s injury a potential concern, the Kings could consider bringing Brar back into the XI in Sharjah, where spinners have dominated the second half of the tournament

Stats that matter

  • Royal Challengers haven’t beaten Kings since the 2019 season
  • Arshdeep Singh has gone wicketless in only two of his ten matches and is currently the Kings’ leading wicket-taker this season with 16 scalps in 10 matches. He averages 16.2 for six wickets in the powerplay at an economy of 6.5, and 13.4 for eight wickets in the death overs at an economy of 8.7
  • AB de Villiers has faced only 19 balls in four innings since the tournament’s resumption in UAE

Varun Shetty is a sub-editor at ESPNcricinfo