Well, here we are. Royal Challengers Bangalore are so close to making the playoffs. Chennai Super Kings are all but knocked out of the tournament. Yes, you are reading that right. It's as real as 2020 and the Royal Challengers are looking better than ever. A strong batting order, an in-form AB de Villiers and an even killer bowling attack.
The Royal Challengers have won four out of their six games in Dubai, while the Super Kings have lost three out of their five games at the venue. It's all aligning for the Royal Challengers to finish their first clean sweep against their opponents, a team against whom they've never won more than a game in a season since 2010.
The Super Kings are still mathematically in, though. Neither the youngsters - barring Sam Curran - nor the senior batsmen could provide the much-spoken-of spark in their last match, against Mumbai Indians. Wins in rest of the games can give them 12 points but they will still have to compete with other teams on net run rate for the fourth spot. A couple of sleeps might not magically turn it around for them and it's not easy to do that especially against the in-form oppositions they are up against in the next three games.
On the other hand, the Royal Challengers are sitting pretty with 14 points on the table and they could still make the top four even if they lose their remaining matches. Virat Kohli's men have all the momentum on their side and they would look to use all of it against the ailing opposition.
Chennai Super Kings: 1 Faf du Plessis, 2 Shane Watson/ Ruturaj Gaikwad, 3 N Jagadeesan/ Ambati Rayudu, 4 MS Dhoni (capt and wk), 5 Sam Curran, 6 Ravindra Jadeja, 7 Deepak Chahar, 8 Shardul Thakur, 9 Karn Sharma/KM Asif, 10 Josh Hazlewood, 11. Imran Tahir
Royal Challengers Bangalore: 1 Devdutt Padikkal, 2 Aaron Finch, 3 Virat Kohli (capt), 4 AB de Villiers (wk), 5 Shivam Dube/ Gurkeerat Mann, 6 Chris Morris, 7 Washington Sundar, 8 Isuru Udana, 9 Mohammad Siraj, 10 Navdeep Saini/Shahbaz Ahmed, 11 Yuzvendra Chahal
A well-paced 90 off 52 from Kohli and some superb bowling in the powerplay by Washington Sundar ensured a Royal Challengers win against the Super Kings in Dubai earlier this month. Chris Morris, in his first match of the season, was excellent at the death as he finished with 3-19 to restrict the Super Kings to 132 for 8 in the 169 chase.
The Royal Challengers' pace attack has been key to their wins in the last few games, Considering how the Super Kings deteriorated against Mumbai's clinical seam bowling performance, and with Mohammed Siraj impressing with the new ball in the win against the Knight Riders, Royal Challengers could use the Morris-Siraj-Navdeep Saini trio against the Super Kings up front for maximum rewards.
You can read a thousand books on how to dismiss de Villiers, but if it is his day, all you can do is just watch him whack it around the park. However, stats suggest getting him out inside the first 10 balls he faces is key, as once he settles, his strike rate goes up to 210, which has been the case since last season. He has also been dismissed eight times by legspinners since the 2018 season, so Dhoni could look to bring in one of his legspinners as soon as de Villiers arrives at the crease.
Stats that matter
No batsman has scored more runs against the Super Kings than Kohli, who has racked up a tally of 837, which includes seven 50-plus scores.
Barring Dhoni, who averages 42 and scores at 147 against Yuzvendra Chahal, the rest of the Super Kings batsmen have an average batting record against the legspinner and have struck at less than 100 against him.
Kohli needs to clear the ropes once to reach 200 sixes in the IPL
de Villiers needs 58 more to reach 9000 runs in T20s