Gujarat Lions v Royal Challengers Bangalore, IPL 2016, Qualifier 1, Bangalore May 23, 2016

Table-topping Lions start as underdogs in RCB's fortress

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Match facts

Tuesday, May 24, 2016
Start time 2000 local (1430 GMT)

Gujarat Lions will hope their batting line-up, led by Brendon McCullum and Aaron Finch, can somehow outscore Royal Challengers Bangalore © AFP

Big Picture

How do you beat Royal Challengers Bangalore in Bangalore? How do you do this when they've won four games on the trot? How do you do this when, in those four matches, Virat Kohli has scored 109, 75*, 113 and 54*? And how do you beat that scary, Kohli-powered Royal Challengers side, on their own turf, when your last attempt at doing so resulted in the worst defeat in all IPL matches, by a brutal 144 runs?

Those questions will preoccupy Gujarat Lions as they prepare for Tuesday's Qualifier 1. It is unusual for a table-topping team, who are one win from a place in a final, to seem like underdogs, but that is what Lions are.

For a table-topping team, Lions have had a strange sort of season, with only Kings XI Punjab, the bottom team, ending the league stage with a worse net run rate than them. It reflects the fact that Lions have suffered a few heavy defeats - including that mauling at Royal Challengers' hands - and won some exceedingly tight games, with three of their matches going down to the last ball. But the fact that Lions won all three of those last-ball finishes, as well as their one other match that went into the last over, would also suggest they have won the clutch moments, a welcome quality in any team.

Lions will need to summon up all that clutch ability - though readers of Moneyball will helpfully point out that it is a myth - on Tuesday, and come up with some sort of plan to contain - or somehow outscore - Royal Challengers' batting line-up.

This is T20, of course, and all you need is one good day - a blazing opening stand, perhaps, with Brendon McCullum and Aaron Finch taking apart what is still, despite a couple of encouraging recent displays, an average Royal Challengers bowling attack; or a Suresh Raina special; or a new-ball burst that leaves the home team two down early, with Kohli one of the two batsmen dismissed, and AB de Villiers, maybe, the other. These things can happen. Lions will certainly hope they can.

Form guide

Gujarat Lions WWLWL (last five matches, most recent first)
Royal Challengers Bangalore WWWWL

In the spotlight

Given the Chinnaswamy's small boundaries and flat pitch, an ability to move the ball through the air is priceless. Praveen Kumar has that ability, and the street-smarts to bowl to one of the most imposing T20 line-ups ever assembled. He comes into the Qualifier with a bit of form behind him: he's gone for six an over or less in three of his last four matches. The one match when he did go for runs, however, was against Royal Challengers, in Bangalore - his figures read 4-1-45-2, and Gujarat Lions conceded 248.

Yuzvendra Chahal has found a place in India's ODI and T20 squads for their tour of Zimbabwe, but before he can celebrate, he will need to produce another spell of wicket-taking legspin with his home venue stacking the odds against him. With two left-handers in their top six in Suresh Raina and Ravindra Jadeja, Gujarat Lions may plan to target Chahal and, if he plays, Iqbal Abdulla as well.

Team news

Dale Steyn has played only one match this season, and James Faulkner only seven, with his last appearance coming on May 3. It will be a difficult decision for Gujarat Lions to play either of them, since their four regular overseas players have all done well of late. But it is a sacrifice they may have to contemplate, if they want to strengthen their bowling against the best batting line-up in the tournament. It seems unlikely to happen, though. Likelier is the inclusion of Ishan Kishan, a left-hand batsman, in place of Eklavya Dwivedi, in order to go after the legspin of Yuzvendra Chahal and/or the left-arm spin of Iqbal Abdulla.

Gujarat Lions: 1 Aaron Finch, 2 Brendon McCullum, 3 Suresh Raina (capt), 4 Dinesh Karthik (wk), 5 Dwayne Smith, 6 Ravindra Jadeja, 7 Dwayne Bravo, 8 Eklavya Dwivedi/Ishan Kishan, 9 Praveen Kumar, 10 Dhawal Kulkarni, 11 Shadab Jakati/Shivil Kaushik/Pravin Tambe

Royal Challengers tend to play an extra seamer rather than a second specialist spinner in their home games, which could mean Varun Aaron comes back in place of Iqbal Abdulla.

Royal Challengers Bangalore: 1 Chris Gayle, 2 Virat Kohli (capt), 3 AB de Villiers, 4 KL Rahul (wk), 5 Shane Watson, 6 Stuart Binny, 7 Sachin Baby, 8 Chris Jordan, 9 S Aravind, 10 Iqbal Abdulla/Varun Aaron, 11 Yuzvendra Chahal

Pitch and conditions

Teams know what to expect when they come to Bangalore - perfect batting conditions and short boundaries. In the eight matches played here so far this season, there has only been one first-innings score below 185. There have been intermittent showers in Bangalore over the last week or so, but no rain is forecast for Tuesday, with an expected high of 35 degrees Celsius.

Stats and trivia

  • Royal Challengers have hit 122 sixes this season, with Mumbai Indians a distant second on 92. Gujarat Lions have hit only 52 sixes - the fewest among all the teams - but have hit 208 fours, which is second to Royal Challengers' 215
  • Lions (11.13) and Royal Challengers (10.71) have the worst economy rates in the last five overs among all teams this season
  • Royal Challengers' batsmen have made up for this by scoring at 12.79 in the last five overs, while Lions have the worst last-five-overs run rate as well (8.67). They do, however, have the best Powerplay scoring rate, of 8.75
  • Dhawal Kulkarni and Dwayne Smith are both three short of 100 T20 wickets

Karthik Krishnaswamy is a senior sub-editor at ESPNcricinfo

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • Cricinfouser on May 24, 2016, 14:40 GMT

    GL already 2 down. where are those guys praising GL..haha

  • Cricinfouser on May 24, 2016, 14:24 GMT

    RIP to those who post too many calculated comments to negate RCB's domination and want them to lose :P

  • uppi2pkc on May 24, 2016, 14:14 GMT

    Wow.... To many comments of RCB being a one man army and d stuff.... Let's wait n watch......by the way Raina's face turned pale the moment he lost the toss..... Let's see whether it's rcbs team work or GLs teamwork...... wait n watch...

  • Husnaj on May 24, 2016, 14:00 GMT

    RCB started very badly and many of their fans thought that they will not make it to the play off. It was a terrific come back after losing the first few matches. I hope their bowlers will improve to meet the requirements.

  • Wall_kar on May 24, 2016, 13:54 GMT

    everyone is talking about Kohli as if he is the one who is single handedly guiding the team. In more than one occasion there were others like Chahal, K L Rahul and ABD who either won them the match or saved them from big defeats. In a team game it is wrong to credit one man for all achievements. Moreover, being a RCB fan, I do not see a big advantage as made out. Infact players like Mac or Finch can change the complexion of the match and win matches single handedly.

  • Rithvik Vallala on May 24, 2016, 13:45 GMT

    I am a hyderabad fan and a considerably good analyst. SRH's problems in the "middle-order" are what i do not believe are the problems. They have the potential to have a successful middle order but [I am an english fan, but have deep respect for VVS laxman] laxman's love for williamson is blinding the fact that ben cutting is the goto option since he is the best batsmen for the spot but there is also the added bonus of his bowling, a real asset especially in chinnaswamy. the bowling should be Fizzzzz, bhuvi, sran, henriques, cutting, and yuvraj and hooda for spin and ashish reddy for some pace off. [karn is no longer cutout for this] this leaves 3 bowlers with sran and fizz the only ones that cant bat. 1.warner 2.dhawan 3.hooda 4.yuvraj 5.cutting 6. henriques 7. naman ojha 8.ashish reddy 9.bhuvi 10.sran 11.fizzzzz. This is clearly the best lineup and yuvraj by the way has been great and underappreciated this season. except naman all these batsmen have shown their potential.if nehra op

  •   Pravin Limaye on May 24, 2016, 13:38 GMT

    This match is more like Virat-AB versus GL.... The rest of RCB does not count... And I have a strange feeling that even Virat knows this...

  • Otaku090 on May 24, 2016, 13:16 GMT

    I'me scared of this match. Especially of Virat Kohli and AB de villiers. Last time, they both scored centuries. So, this time hoping for same result. GL bowlers, he ready for crushing.

  • Haleos on May 24, 2016, 13:09 GMT

    @K.a.l.i.n.g.a.w.a.r.r.i.o.R - Virat is nothing like sachin. Virat never leaves the chase for somewhere else. Keep dreaming about SRH in the finals. KKR will maul them.

  • NikSaid on May 24, 2016, 13:03 GMT

    Its really RCB 1 vs GL 10 players. RCB heavily relies on one and only Kohli and GL never ever got any contribution from #7 position. (Mr Ishaan). Today team work will win.

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