Saturday, May 14, 2016
Start time 1600 local (1030 GMT)
Where is Suresh Raina? And what do Royal Challengers Bangalore have to do to make the playoffs? As far as burning questions go, those two must be causing wildfires. The Gujarat Lions captain had left for the Netherlands last week for the birth of his first child and has not returned to India yet. A five-day gap between matches had given Raina hope that he would be back in time, but it hasn't worked out that way, and he is set to miss his first IPL fixture in nine years.
Meanwhile, Virat Kohli boomed that he "loved" the situation Royal Challengers were in, having to win each of their four remaining matches to progress past the league stage. Technically, it appears Royal Challengers can weather one more defeat. Unfortunately, their dance card includes three title contenders - Lions, Kolkata Knight Riders and Delhi Daredevils - all of whom had thumped them earlier this season. So a bloody-minded, do-or-die approach is probably the best way forward.
Plus they have a score to settle. On April 24, Lions had chased a target of 181 with ease and one of the protagonists, Dwayne Smith, had said the Royal Challengers attack was "not that strong". Things like that tend to rile up an opposition, especially one fighting for survival.
Lions have a compelling reason to win in Bangalore as well, for if they do, they will go top of the table and that might just be the kind of present the team would want to give their captain Raina when he joins them in Kanpur for their match against Knight Riders on May 19.
Royal Challengers Bangalore LWWLL (Last five matches, most recent first) Gujarat Lions WLLLW
Watch out for
It's been an up-and-down season for Yuzvendra Chahal. A wristspinner relies on putting as may revs on the ball as he can to defeat the batsman in flight, but perhaps large bats and small outfields - daily life at the M Chinnaswamy stadium - have thrown him off track. He took 1 for 16 in four overs to fan hopes of Royal Challengers defending 151 a couple of days ago, and his team will want to give him a lot more runs on the board next time.
It is said that Ravindra Jadeja is a bowler first, fielder next and a batsman if needed. And he may certainly be needed if Lions make the knockouts and run into top-order trouble. It would be prudent to give him a little more time in the middle now, especially at a batting-friendly venue like Bangalore.
After figures of 1 for 43, 0 for 52 and 0 for 37, there is a strong case for Royal Challengers to replace Chris Jordan with the left-arm wristspinner Tabraiz Shamsi. Chris Gayle may also be under pressure considering he is yet to make a double-digit score this season.
Royal Challengers Bangalore (probable): 1 Virat Kohli (capt) 2 Chris Gayle, 3 KL Rahul (wk), 4 AB de Villiers, 5 Shane Watson, 6 Sachin Baby, 7 Stuart Binny, 8 Chris Jordan, 9 S Aravind, 10 Varun Aaron, 11 Yuzvendra Chahal.
Besides the culmination of Raina's 143-match streak, Lions have to think about who to replace him with. There are enough options to take on the captaincy, with coach Brad Hodge indicating Brendon McCullum is likely to do so. Back-up batsmen Akshdeep Nath or Ishan Kishan may slot back in the XI.
Gujarat Lions (probable): 1 Brendon McCullum (capt), 2 Dwayne Smith, 3 Akshdeep Nath/ Ishan Kishan, 4 Dinesh Karthik (wk), 5 Aaron Finch, 6 Dwayne Bravo, 7 Ravindra Jadeja, 8 Praveen Kumar, 9 Dhawal Kulkarni, 10 Shivil Kaushik, 11 Pravin Tambe.
Pitch and conditions
A strangely slow pitch had featured in the last game in Bangalore and both seamers and spinners found grip. Perhaps it was simply the natural wear and tear that is expected late in the season. More worryingly, the forecast is for light to heavy showers through the afternoon and evening.
Stats and trivia
McCullum, Smith, Finch and Karthik make up four of the Lions top five and they have maintained strike rates above 130 this season. Their finishers Bravo and Jadeja, however, are striking at just over a run a ball
Gayle has hit only one six from four matches. Kohli and AB de Villiers have 17 each, and KL Rahul has 15.
"It's a huge loss. Anyone that's scored close to 4000 runs in this tournament is a loss to our line-up. Having said that though, we've got some players who can step into his role. We've got a lot of experience in Smith, McCullum, Finch, Dinesh Karthik, Jaddu, Bravo, all match-winners who can step up and win us a game."
Gujarat Lions head coach Brad Hodge on Raina's absence