Riding high on momentum, RCB could be too strong for inconsistent Punjab
Mumbai: Royal Challengers Bangalore, who have found much-needed momentum towards the business end of IPL, will back themselves to ride past an inconsistent Punjab Kings and get closer to a play-off spot here on Friday.
Having put up complete performances in their last two games, RCB seemed to have figured out their best combination.
Barring Virat Kohli, all of their batters are in top form with uncapped Rajat Patidar and Mahipal Lomror complementing seasoned pros like skipper Faf du Plessis, Glenn Maxwell and Dinesh Karthik, who has been among the best finishers in the tournament alongside Gujarat's Rahul Tewatia.
The bowling packs a punch too in the presence of in-form pacers Josh Hazlewood and the ever-reliable Harshal Patel. Mohammad Siraj has not been at his best but trust him to deliver when the team wants it the most.
Maxwell has been handy with his off-spin, both in powerplay and middle overs, while Wanindu Hasaranga is among the leading wicket-takers in the tournament with 21 scalps including a five-wicket haul.
"What we are trying to get better as a team is making sure that one of those top-four creates a bit of a base. We have got some really strong hitters at the back.
"The games where we didn't do so well, there was a big cluster of wickets in the powerplay. Obviously need some stability but at the same time you gonna make sure you don't go into defensive mode," said du Plessis after the massive win over SRH.
Kohli, who is in the middle of his worst IPL season, is due for an impact knock and that could come against Punjab. A win on Friday would take RCB to 16 points though 18 seems to be a safe number for a play-off berth.
Punjab, who have three games left, need to win all to have a shot at the top-four finish. They had started their campaign with a win over RCB and are on 10 points with five wins and six losses.
The fact that they have not been able to win two games in a row sums up their inconsistent run.
Shikhar Dhawan and Bhanuka Rajapaksa have delivered at the top, so has Liam Livingstone and Jitesh Sharma in finishing the innings. Jonny Bairstow finally got runs after being promoted to open the innings alongside Dhawan.
Skipper Mayank Agarwal, who has moved himself down the order, needs to lead from the front.
On the bowling front, Sandeep Sharma has been tidy but could do with some wickets in the powerplay. Lead pacer Kagiso Rabada has done well to take 18 wickets but has gone for close to 9 runs per over.
Arshdeep Singh has been brilliant, especially in the death overs, and has impressed many with his ability to land yorkers at will.
Despite a solid squad at their disposal, Punjab have flattered to deceive and they must raise their game before it is too late yet again.
Royal Challengers Bangalore: Faf du Plessis (C), Virat Kohli, Glenn Maxwell, Mohammed Siraj, Harshal Patel, Wanindu Hasaranga, Dinesh Karthik, Josh Hazlewood, Shahbaz Ahmed, Anuj Rawat, Akash Deep, Mahipal Lomror, Finn Allen, Sherfane Rutherford, Jason Behrendorff, Suyash Prabhudesai, Chama Milind, Aneeshwar Gautam, Karn Sharma, David Willey, Rajat Patidar, Siddharth Kaul.
Punjab Kings: Shikhar Dhawan, Mayank Agarwal (C), Arshdeep Singh, Kagiso Rabada, Jonny Bairstow, Rahul Chahar, Harpreet Brar, Shahrukh Khan, Prabhsimran Singh, Jitesh Sharma, Ishan Porel, Liam Livingstone, Odean Smith, Sandeep Sharma, Raj Angad Bawa, Rishi Dhawan, Prerak Mankad, Vaibhav Arora, Writtick Chatterjee, Baltej Dhanda, Ansh Patel, Nathan Ellis, Atharva Taide, Bhanuka Rajapaksa, Benny Howell.
Match starts 7:30PM IST.