Playing this IPL’s last league stage match, Royal Challengers Bangalore would know what exactly is required of them to qualify for the playoffs, when they face table-toppers Gujarat Titans here on Sunday.
With batting maestro Virat Kohli back at his absolute best and skipper Faf du Plessis leading from the front with 600-plus runs this season, RCB will hope their dazzling opening duo fires in this must-win game for them.
Currently placed at fourth position, Royal Challengers Bangalore also have a better net run rate (NRR) of 0.180 than Mumbai Indians (-0.128), who take on Sunrisers Hyderabad in Sunday’s first game, and Rajasthan Royals.
Besides playing in front of their beloved home crowd that will back them vociferously come Sunday, the other advantage for du Plessis’ side is that they feature in the last game of the league round on Sunday evening, by which time RCB would know the outcome of the duel between MI and SRH in Mumbai.
However, it will mean nothing if they lose to defending champions Gujarat Titans, a formidable outfit without an iota of doubt and led admirably by star all-rounder Hardik Pandya throughout the season, the reward of which is a top-two finish in the league stage with a real chance of retaining the title they won in their inaugural season.
While Gujarat Titans lead the pecking order with 18 points after winning nine matches and losing four, RCB are equal with MI, RR on points ahead of their game at the M Chinnaswamy Stadium.
Entering this game, both teams are coming off big wins, GT over Sunrisers Hyderabad by 34 runs and RCB by eight wickets over the 2016 champions by eight wickets after a sparkling hundred by Kohli, his sixth overall across IPL.
RCB would certainly take confidence from the manner in which they chased down a target of 186 in their previous outing against SRH, with both Kohli and du Plessis firing.
The match against GT, however, is going to be a different ball game altogether considering the kind of resources RCB’s opponents possess and the confidence they carry into their matches.
It will be interesting to see how the trio of Kohli, du Plessis, and Glenn Maxwell go about their tasks against GT.
South African du Plessis, who holds the Orange Cap for scoring the most runs, has so far amassed 631 runs in 13 games. He also leads the chart for hitting the most sixes (34). Meanwhile, Kohli is sixth in the list for top scorers with 438 runs.
However, RCB’s overreliance on Kohli, du Plessis and Maxwell has been a major cause of concern and if the GT bowlers can make early inroads, the visitors will hold the aces.
Mohammed Siraj has been the RCB standout bowler this season, and in the company of Wayne Parnell, he would again have to shoulder the responsibility of leading their bowling attack.
With the ball, they will be up against the likes of in-form Shubman Gill, Wriddhiman Saha, David Miller, Rahul Tewatia and GT skipper Pandya.
Like Kohli, Gill, who is being seen as a successor to the run-machine from Delhi, is also coming off a century, and will look to set the tone against RCB.
Seasoned campaigners such as Mohammed Shami, Rashid Khan and Mohit Sharma make for a very competitive bowling attack for GT, but they will have their task cut out against a team that comprises one of the modern-day greats of the game.
As far as weather is concerned, there are chances of rain, which will not gladden RCB and their fans.
Royal Challengers Bangalore: Faf du Plessis (c), Akash Deep, Finn Allen, Anuj Rawat, Avinash Singh, Manoj Bhandage, Michael Bracewell, Wanindu Hasaranga, Dinesh Karthik (wk), Siddarth Kaul, Virat Kohli, Mahipal Lomror, Glenn Maxwell, Mohammed Siraj, Wayne Parnell, Harshal Patel, Suyash Prabhudessai, Rajan Kumar, Shahbaz Ahmed, Karn Sharma, Himanshu Sharma, Sonu Yadav, Vijaykumar Vyshak, Kedar Jadhav.
Gujarat Titans: Hardik Pandya (c), Shubman Gill, David Miller, Abhinav Manohar, Sai Sudharsan, Wriddhiman Saha, Matthew Wade, Rashid Khan, Rahul Tewatia, Vijay Shankar, Mohammed Shami, Alzarri Joseph, Yash Dayal, Pradeep Sangwan, Darshan Nalkande, Jayant Yadav, R. Sai Kishore, Noor Ahmad, Dasun Shanaka, Odean Smith, KS Bharat, Shivam Mavi, Urvil Patel, Joshua Little and Mohit Sharma.
Match starts at 7.30PM IST.