Royal Challengers Bangalore retained Virat Kohli and AB de Villiers, two of the best batsmen in T20s, ahead of the IPL auction. With batsmen to play around them, it was always going to be a case of RCB's bowling unit needing additional resources. Out of six games, RCB have conceded more than 200 three times and lost all those games.
An interesting second half of the season could be at stake in this game. If Royal Challengers beat Kolkata Knight Riders on Sunday, both teams will have three wins in seven games. If Knight Riders win, a clear gulf between the top and bottom half will start to form.
Knight Riders endured their worst day of the season on Friday, losing by 55 runs to Delhi Daredevils after conceding the season's biggest total. There were also several fielding lapses; match-winner Shreyas Iyer was dropped twice. Despite that, KKR's depth in batting and bowling should provide a stern test for Royal Challengers, given the short dimensions of the M Chinnaswamy Stadium.
In the news
Royal Challengers will likely look at ringing in a few changes on the bowling front after failing to defend a 200-plus total against Chennai Super Kings. Left-arm pacer Kulwant Khejroliya, who hasn't played since their third match, against Rajasthan Royals, had an extended spell at practice.
The likely XIs
Royal Challengers Bangalore: 1 Quinton de Kock (wk), 2 Manan Vohra, 3 Virat Kohli (capt), 4 AB de Villiers, 5 Mandeep Singh, 6 Colin de Grandhomme, 7 Pawan Negi, 8 Washington Sundar, 9 Tim Southee, 10 Umesh Yadav, 11 Yuzvendra Chahal
Kolkata Knight Riders: 1 Chris Lynn, 2 Sunil Narine, 3 Robin Uthappa, 4 Nitish Rana, 5 Dinesh Karthik (capt, wk), 6 Andre Russell, 7 Shubman Gill, 8 Piyush Chawla, 9 Mitchell Johnson, 10 Kuldeep Yadav, 11 Shivam Mavi
Knight Riders ran down 177 comfortably in the opening game for both these sides at Eden Gardens. That chase included a 17-ball fifty from Sunil Narine.
Lynn and Narine are an efficient batting pair because of their varied preferences. Lynn relishes pace: he strikes at 178.8 per 100 balls, and hits a boundary every 3.4 balls in the IPL since 2015. Against spin, he has a strike rate of 127.3, with a boundary every seven balls. Narine, on the other hand, prefers spin: he has a strike-rate of 196.6 against these bowlers, with a boundary every three balls.
Royal Challengers could use a spinner against Lynn and a fast bowler to Narine, with tight fields to prevent singles. That could force both batsmen to attempt tougher shots against a type of bowling they're not comfortable with.
Stats that matter
- Royal Challengers are the worst bowling team at the death this season, conceding 13.29 runs an over in that period. They are also the second-most efficient batting team in that period, scoring 11.49 runs an over.
- In IPLs since 2015, de Villiers hasn't had a strike-rate under 150 against any form of bowling. His worst strike-rate is against left-arm spin: 154.8.
- Andre Russell may have a slight weakness against right-arm legspinners. Since 2015 in the IPL, he has scored just 66 runs off 52 balls, and has been dismissed three times.
After their struggles against Super Kings, it's a good time to bank on some untested death bowlers for Royal Challengers, such as Tim Southee, who joined the team late, after missing the first few games due to an illness. In T20s since 2015, Southee has taken 52 wickets, 18 of which have come in the death overs.
Nikhil Kalro is a sub-editor at ESPNcricinfo