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After 56 matches of intense and competitive cricket, it is time now for the playoffs in the ninth edition of the Indian Premier League (IPL) and top two teams on the points table, debutants Gujarat Lions and ‘Kohli-fied’ Royal Challengers Bangalore will locks in Qualifier 1 at the Chinnaswamy Stadium in Bangalore on Tuesday night.
The last time when these two teams met at this venue, it was a rampage by Virat Kohli and AB de Villiers. Thanks to their twin tons, the hosts registered a record 144-run victory.
However, since then, the Lions played two more games and have won both comfortably to finish at the top of the table in their debut season. Now, in their race for the grand finale the Lions have to battle it out against RCB once again and it is evident, their battle is more against Kolhi, who has already scored 100* and 109 against their attack in the two league games this season.
The first thing Suresh Raina, the Lions’ skipper, would like to do on Tuesday — is to win the toss.
Chasing down targets has been cup of tea for the power-packed RCB batting unit. We have seen bowling attacks find it really difficult to stop Kohli and Co. while chasing, especially at the Chinnaswamy. Also both these teams do not have the best of bowling attacks. Thus, the toss will play a crucial role during this Qualifier 1.
In the bowling department, Raina would want his bowlers to put up a show like they did against Kolkata and Mumbai in the last two matches. Against a top-heavy side like RCB, taking early wicket is the mantra of success and the skipper will bank on Dhawal Kulkarni and Praveen Kumar to do so with the new ball.
From RCB’s point of view, this is perfect time to put up another fascinating show in front of their long deprived fans. Kohli is desperate to finally bring the IPL Trophy home this seasons and one must feel this is their best chance.
The momentum is with Bangalore at this moment. After a poor start to the tournament, RCB came back from nowhere to qualify for the last-four stages. In order to qualify, they needed to win their last four league matches and Kohli’s boys did it in style. They not only qualified but also secured a place at the top two as well and with 919 runs in the 14 league matches, Kohli has been the architect of this fightback.
What has come as a big relief for RCB is the performance of their bowlers in the last few matches. In their last three matches RCB did not allow their opponent to score more than 139. The likes of Yuzvendra Chahal, Chris Jordan, Sreenath Aravind and Shane Watson have come good at the right time.
So, it is not just about the RCB batting anymore, Brendon McCullum, Aaron Finch, Dwayne Smith, Raina and other Gujarat batsmen have to be careful against this under-rated bowling unit as well.