Royal Challengers Bangalore fans are feeling it. One of the most-followed sides in the history of the Indian Premier League are only two wins away from ending the wait for the elusive IPL crown. After having been the perennial bridesmaid, RCB are looking like a unit with purpose, better clarity as they head into Qualifier 2 against Rajasthan Royals, who headed to Ahmedabad after losing Qualifier 1 against finalists Gujarat TItans.
RCB look like a well-oiled machine for the first time in many years. As former India opener Aakash Chopra pointed out, the former finalists are no longer a team that is only about a couple of their big names. RCB have managed to find new heroes with every passing match. Even when their Big 3 – Virat Kohli, Faf du Plessis and Glen Maxwell – have failed, RCB have managed to get past the finish line. For instance, it was uncapped Rajat Patidar who played the innings of IPL 2022 to help them outclass Lucknow Super Giants in the Eliminator.
RCB have the firepower to go the distance, but it’s all about winning the battle of nerves and doing the right things at the right time. Fortunately, they have Faf du Plessis, one of the calmest characters around, at the helm. Not much has been spoken about the South Africa star’s leadership but he has done a wonderful job, running a team filled with superstars.
On the other hand, the Royals need to bounce back strongly from their crushing defeat to the Titans. They have not been in the final since the legendary Shane Warne took them to the summit in the inaugural edition in 2008. It will be a test of character for captain Sanju Samson and the senior pros, including Jos Buttler, Trent Boult and R Ashwin, against a charged- up RCB side.
It’s been a quick turnaround for RCB who travelled from Kolkata to Ahmedabad on Thursday, but du Plessis and his men will be keen on riding the winning momentum.
Rajasthan Royals: Sanju Samson’s men were comfortably outclassed by the Gujarat Titans on Tuesday despite posting 188 on the board at the Eden Gardens. Jos Buttler hit 89 but it was a strange innings as the England star struggled for fluency at the start before hitting the big ones towards the end. With Sanju Samson also chipping in, the Royals batters did their job but the bowlers had an off-day.
While Boult was on top of his mark, R Ashwin and Prasidh Krishna were taken to the cleaners by Hardik Pandya, Matthew Wade and David Miller. In fact, the South African star, who is enjoying a new lease of life with GT, hit 3 sixes in the first 3 deliveries of the final over by Prasidh to book their ticket to Motera.
Royal Challengers Bangalore: RCB were on the brink but with help from Mumbai Indians, the former finalists sneaked through to the playoffs.
Nonetheless, RCB have been in good form, managing 2 wins on the bounce. They headed into the playoffs after a convincing win over Gujarat Titans and they knocked out Lucknow in the Eliminator.
RCB’s bowling unit has been peaking at the right time, but the big-hitting show from Rajat Patidar in the Eliminator should give the team a lot of confidence.
April 5: RCB (173/6 in 19.1 ov) beat RR (169/3) at the Wankhede Stadium
April 28: RR (!44/8) beat RCB (115 all-out) by 29 runs at MCA Stadium
PLAYERS IN FOCUS
Virat Kohli: The former captain, who has faced scrutiny, is warming up his engines. Isn’t he? After ending a string of poor scores with a match-winning 73 against Gujarat in their must-win game, Kohli got off to a good start but failed to capitalise on it against Lucknow. Can he deliver on the big day for RCB? Regardless, the energy he brings on to the field will be crucial to RCB.
Josh Hazlewood: While Harshal Patel’s 4 overs are going to be crucial for RCB, it’s important that the tall Australian pacers sets the tone for the Royals. If Hazlewood is able to get one or two big names out early from the top-heavy Rajasthan line-up, RCB will have the early upper hand.
Jos Buttler: Buttler had struggled for runs after starting the season on a blistering note. The English star had hit 3 hundreds in the first half of the season but he struggled to put bat to ball in the business end of the league stages.
However, Buttler’s return to form against the Titans will be a big boost to the Royals’ confidence ahead of the crunch tie.
Yuzvendra Chahal: The leg-spinner will be keen on using the knowledge he has of RCB stars against them in the do-or-die clash. Chahal has been miserly against RCB in both the previous games this season and the Royals would want the Purple Cap star to do some damage tonight. Chahal can be used towards the end overs as well, considering his stunning record against in-form Dinesh Karthik (averages 12.66 in T20s).
Probable Playing XIs
RCB: Faf du Plessis (captain), Virat Kohli, Rajat Patidar, Glenn Maxwell, Mahipal Lomror, Shahbaz Ahmed, Dinesh Karthik (wk), Wanindu Hasaranga, Harshal Patel, Mohammed Siraj, Josh Hazlewood.
RR: Jos Buttler, Yashasvi Jaiswal, Sanju Samson (captain & wk), Devdutt Padikkal, Shimron Hetmyer, Riyan Paraga, R Ashwin, Obed McCoy, Trent Boult, Yuzvendra Chahal, Prasidh Krishna.