April 26, 2014
Start time 1430 local (1030 GMT, 1600 IST)
Two teams jolted by recent defeats will be eager to get back the winning momentum. Royal Challengers Bangalore have just a day to shake off a stunning defeat at the hands of Kolkata Knight Riders, for it was a game they weren't meant to lose. Any team needing 25 off 18 balls with seven wickets in hand would back itself to seal it, but a combination of nerves, intelligent death bowling from Vinay Kumar, and a blinder of an outfield catch from Chris Lynn turned the match on its head.
It was Royal Challengers' first defeat in three games, but more importantly, it was the wake-up call they needed to ward off complacency. Chris Gayle's likely return will perk them up, but the opening position is not their worry, for they have managed well without him. Yuvraj Singh has scores of 52*, 0 and 31 but he won't be very satisfied with his strike-rate. Virat Kohli cannot be expected to win them every game, which means the others around him have to be more consistent.
Still, the Royal Challengers may not be as concerned about form as the Rajasthan Royals will be. The team succumbed to Glenn Maxwell defending 191 and against Chennai Super Kings, they failed to chase 141. They could not pin down Super Kings at 74 for 5, and despite restricting them to a middling total, the batsmen never really asserted themselves. It begs the question of whether Shane Watson should move up the order, with Abhishek Nayar struggling. If Watson can take control at the top, it relieves the pressure on the middle order.
Watch out for
Varun Aaron had to endure negative press coming into this IPL, after he leaked 74 off only 7.5 overs in an ODI against Bangladesh in the Asia Cup. Fortunately, he has managed to turn that around with economical spells. He took 1 for 9 off three overs against Delhi Daredevils and his best performance was 3 for 16 against Knight Riders. That he has managed to be penetrative without compromising on his pace is a bonus for Royal Challengers and himself.
Rajat Bhatia joked that the Dubai pitch was slower than his bowling. The experienced medium-pacer has been hard to get at because of the pace he takes off the ball, forcing the batsmen to use extra muscle to clear the long boundaries. He makes the batsmen play to his tunes and that explains his economy rate of 6.63. He was at his miserly best against Super Kings, giving away just 13 off four overs and picking up two wickets.
Stats and trivia
- Among current players, Shane Watson is the leading run-scorer in matches between Royals and Royal Challengers, with 210 runs. The record, though, is held by Rahul Dravid (323) who has retired.
- Virat Kohli has a below-par record against Royals, with only 158 runs at a below-par strike rate of 92 and an average of 17.55
Kanishkaa Balachandran is a senior sub-editor at ESPNcricinfo