Royal Challengers in battle for survival
Sunday, May 18, 2014
Start time 1600 local (1030 GMT)
Chennai Super Kings and Royal Challengers Bangalore are playing each other for the first time, more than 30 days into the tournament. While Super Kings are all but through to the playoffs - for them to miss out on a spot in the last four, they would have to lose four games in four, and even then they could go through on net run rate - the demands are much harder on Royal Challengers, who cannot afford any slip-ups in their four remaining matches, given their delicate mid-table standing. Super Kings, Kings XI Punjab and Rajasthan Royals are primed to take three of the playoff spots, but the remaining spot is expected to be a scramble between Royal Challengers, Kolkata Knight Riders and Sunrisers Hyderabad.
Royal Challengers avoided the embarrassment of being trampled upon for three consecutive games at home thanks to Yuvraj Singh, whose blazing fifty gave their campaign fuel. They would have to hit peak form going forward and while the batting looks in better health, the bowling hasn't been up to the mark. In their last four games, Royal Challengers have conceded 170, 191, 198 and 187. They don't have a bowler in the same mould as Sunil Narine, who can consistently bowl four tight overs even if he fails to pick up wickets - perhaps young legspinner Yuzvendra Chahal comes closest. Royal Challengers wouldn't want to be forced into making changes to their bowling every game, certainly not at this stage, so they'll be hoping to finally hit upon the right combination on Sunday.
Super Kings haven't had to make too many changes and a relatively settled unit is partly responsible for their success. David Hussey has been included in the squad but he is likely to come in only once Brendon McCullum flies home for the birth of his baby. Super Kings made heavier weather of their chase against Royals in their last game than they would have liked, but MS Dhoni - with some help from Ravindra Jadeja - calmly saw them through, again.
Royal Challengers Bangalore WLLLW (completed games, most recent first)
Chennai Super Kings WWLWW
Where they stand
Chennai Super Kings - Second place, with eight wins in ten games
Royal Challengers Bangalore - Sixth place, with four wins in ten games
Players to watch
Yuvraj Singh has made up for lost time with two consecutive fifties, but big runs continue to desert Chris Gayle and Virat Kohli. Both are yet to score fifties, though Gayle has played four fewer games. Given Royal Challengers' bowling weaknesses, it will come down to their batsmen to win them games and a strong top order platform is essential or else the responsibility falls on Yuvraj and AB de Villiers, again.
Super Kings have not got the best out of Mithun Manhas, who has a highest of 13 in five innings. A middle-order batsman, he has been batting at No. 7 and often comes in only towards the end of the innings. For now, it doesn't make much of a difference to the team since it is doing well. But a promotion to give him more of a chance to get runs, and keep his confidence high, might be good, looking at the long-term - he will be needed should their strong top and middle order falter at any stage.
Stats and trivia
- Super Kings have not been bowled out even once in this tournament. Their specialist bowlers Mohit Sharma and Ishwar Pandey have not been required to bat at all
- Royal Challengers' Yuzvendra Chahal has picked up 12 wickets in ten games at an impressive economy rate of 6.48 - the best by an uncapped player so far in the tournament (minimum 5 overs)
"I have sort of spoken to [Stephen] Fleming and he said that I will be a middle-order player, and with Brendon McCullum due to go home for the birth of his baby, I'll definitely get an opportunity to play."
David Hussey on his role at Super Kings
"I'm definitely staying out of that sort of thing. It's not in my nature to get involved in that sort of stuff. It was a heat-of-the-moment thing."
Royal Challengers pacer Mitchell Starc says he doesn't want to be involved in another incident like the one with Kieron Pollard
Kanishkaa Balachandran is a senior sub-editor at ESPNcricinfo