Royal Challengers Bangalore finally scored away points, their first in five games on the road in IPL 2013, against Pune Warriors on Thursday. While the winning margin of 17 runs seemed comfortable enough in the end, Royal Challengers must have been worried as Robin Uthappa had a feisty go at the target of 188. To remove all remaining doubts, for themselves, the fans and the experts, they would have to score again in Mohali.
Apart from the psychological benefits of consecutive away victories, it's imperative that they win to allow themselves a bit of a cushion on the points table. Royal Challengers currently sit at No. 2 with 14 points from 11 games. But Mumbai Indians, Sunrisers Hyderabad and Rajasthan Royals all have the same numbers too. With five games to go in the group stages, Royal Challengers will want to break away from the pack without much delay.
Kings XI Punjab sit just outside of that mid-table cluster, with eight points from 10 games. With nine wins being the number widely agreed upon as the number required to stand a serious chance of making the playoffs, they must win five of their remaining six matches. While Royal Challengers - with the likes of Chris Gayle, AB de Villiers and Virat Kohli all having delivered at different times in this tournament - might seem like a daunting challenge for the relatively low-profile Kings XI, they can take heart from their previous two showings. After almost pulling off a giant-killing in Mumbai, they were spirited in their chase of 187 at Chepauk. Now, back at home in Mohali, they will be hoping to finally close out a game. Time is running out for them, and they can't afford any more almost-theres.
Royal Challengers Bangalore: WLLWW (most recent first) Kings XI Punjab: LLLWW
Players to watch
Royal Challengers Bangalore bought Saurabh Tiwary for US$1.6 million at the 2011 auction, following his fine IPL 2010 with Mumbai Indians. Till last Thursday, he was yet to score a half-century for Royal Challengers. A few days ago, coach Ray Jennings said it is imperative Tiwary - who had missed the first couple of weeks of the tournament due to injury but has played all five of Royal Challengers' games since - betters his performance. He responded with 52 against Pune Warriors, but scored at a rate of 115 even as his team got to 187. Royal Challengers will be hoping he can go that mile further against Kings XI.
Praveen Kumar might have had an off-day in his previous game, going at 9.50 against Chennai Super Kings, but he has been having a very tidy IPL on the whole. Even after that showing at Chepauk, his economy rate in 10 games is 6.75, the third-best among pace bowlers (35 overs min) in the tournament behind Dale Steyn and Bhuvneshwar Kumar. But he has missed out on selection for the Champions Trophy in England in June. He last played for India a little over a year ago, before being sidelined by injury. On recovering, he had expressed "frustration" at being ignored by the national selectors. Then, he had discipline issues in domestic cricket. Now, he might be feeling a bit hard done again. He'll be keen to prove a point.
Stats and Trivia
Both teams have very even records against each other: they've played 10 in all, winning 5 each; they've played 4 in Punjab, winning 2 each; they won one apiece last year, both sides winning their away games
Kings XI's David Miller leads the tournament's batting-average charts at the moment, with 251 runs in six games at 83.66
Beware Chris Gayle the bowler. He has claimed three wickets in the two overs he has sent down in the tournament so far