Can RCB maintain its momentum against Kings XI?

Having won four of its last five matches, the onus will be on Royal Challengers Bangalore to take a step closer to the playoff spot with a victory against the already-eliminated Kings XI Punjab.

Royal Challengers Bangalore has had a lacklustre bowling performance this season.   -  PTI

For a long time, Wednesday’s match between Royal Challengers Bangalore (RCB) and Kings XI Punjab at the Chinnaswamy Stadium seemed set to be resigned to the fate of being the wooden spoon match-up. But now, there is something clearly at stake. Not so much for the Kings, who are out of the reckoning for the playoffs, but for RCB.

Having won four of its last five matches, wins in the next two can carry the side into the next stage. It may still be able to digest a loss, but in that scenario it will need other results to work in its favour.

However, RCB has to be wary. Every time it has threatened to kick-start a run, it has been pulled back; the reason primarily being its lacklustre bowling. Skipper Virat Kohli and A.B. de Villiers, with sizeable contributions from K. L. Rahul, have shouldered the burden of the team with remarkable ease.

Kohli has, in fact, had to play through pain — he split his webbing but still scored a match-winning 75 against Kolkata Knight Riders (KKR) on Monday — and looks certain to feature against Kings XI.

Gayle finds his touch

Chris Gayle’s 31-ball-49 against Knight Riders, on the back of a barren run, would have indeed brought cheer. But with a last-four spot in sight, Kohli could very well do with a bowling unit firing in unison than just with a few dying embers.

Against the depleted Kings, RCB can very well make a statement. Glenn Maxwell and Marcus Stoinis have joined the Australian exodus from the IPL. While a side strain has forced Maxwell out, Stoinis, one of the few standout performers with both bat and ball, has flown back owing to personal reasons.

"Losing a player of Maxwell’s calibre at the fag end of the tournament is a big blow," said coach Sanjay Bangar. "Especially when you come to Bengaluru you want players capable of hitting big sixes, the major boundary hitters. But an opportunity missed could be an opportunity presented to someone like Farhaan Behardien, who does a tremendous role as a finisher for South Africa.

"We come in to every game wanting to play our best game," Bangar added. "The last six games we have played have all gone to the wire. I am very happy with the quality of cricket. The points table doesn’t really reflect it, but such things happen."

Bangar was probably alluding to the bowling performances of the two Sharmas in Sandeep and Mohit, the strokeful 56-ball-96 by Hashim Amla against Sunrisers Hyderabad and M. Vijay’s captaincy.

On Wednesday, weather permitting — the forecast is for rain — he will no doubt want each one of them to come good.

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