Royal Challengers Bangalore (RCB) has made heavy weather of a task that should have ideally been a walk in the park. A week ago, with 14 points from 10 games, it needed a solitary win to make the playoffs for the first time since 2016.
But two crushing defeats to Chennai Super Kings and Mumbai Indians (MI) have made fans squirm in their seats. On Saturday, when it meets Sunrisers Hyderabad (SRH) in Sharjah, it will look to put an end to this nervous wait.
The two positives for RCB even in the five-wicket loss to MI were the emergence of Devdutt Padikkal (74 runs) and Josh Philippe (33) as a potent opening combination and the side’s middle-overs batting. After the repeated failures of Aaron Finch, the young Aussie opener came as a breath of fresh air, while Padikkal batting for an extended period meant RCB scored 80 runs from overs seven to 16.
But the way RCB withered after Virat Kohli and AB de Villiers fell cheaply has revived concerns that the outfit is over-dependent on the star duo. Only 35 runs came off the final five overs, a phase of play that ultimately proved decisive.
Navdeep Saini, who missed the last match versus MI because of a split webbing, remains a doubt. That his replacement Dale Steyn endured a forgettable evening is not one bit reassuring.
This hardly seems like ideal preparation before taking on a dangerous side like SRH. The Hyderabad franchise is indeed fighting for dear life, having to win its two remaining games while hoping for favourable results elsewhere to keep up the trend of reaching the last-four every year since 2016.
But in Tuesday’s 88-run thrashing of Delhi Capitals (DC), SRH, with nothing to lose, seemed liberated. It now has both momentum and a heady net run rate (+0.396), the second-best in the competition after MI (+1.186).
The belligerence of openers David Warner (66, 34b) and Wriddhiman Saha (87, 45b) had set up that win. The latter’s selection, facilitated by the non-inclusion of Jonny Bairstow (SRH’s then second-highest run-scorer with 345 runs), seems inspired.
Yet, SRH is not without headaches. The search is still on for a frontline bowling option to complement the efforts of the brilliant Rashid Khan and T. Natarajan. Jason Holder, of whom much was expected, went for 46 in his four overs against DC and it won’t bode well for SRH if all-rounder Vijay Shankar doesn’t recover from a hamstring strain.
It will further complicate things if Saha is laid low by the groin injury he sustained in the last match. Both teams’ thinktanks have a lot of brainstorming to do.
Royal Challengers Bangalore: Aaron Finch, Devdutt Padikkal, Parthiv Patel, Virat Kohli, AB de Villiers, Gurkeerat Singh, Shivam Dube, Chris Morris, Washington Sundar, Shahbaz Ahmed, Navdeep Saini, Dale Steyn, Yuzvendra Chahal, Adam Zampa, Isuru Udana, Moeen Ali, Josh Philippe, Pawan Negi, Pavan Deshpande, Mohammad Siraj, Umesh Yadav.
Sunrisers Hyderabad: David Warner (Captain), Jonny Bairstow, Kane Williamson, Manish Pandey, Shreevats Goswami, Virat Singh, Priyam Garg, Wriddhiman Saha, Abdul Samad, Vijay Shankar, Mohammad Nabi, Rashid Khan, Jason Holder, Abhishek Sharma, B Sandeep, Sanjay Yadav, Fabian Allen, Prithvi Raj Yarra, Khaleel Ahmed, Sandeep Sharma, Shahbaz Nadeem, Siddharth Kaul, Billy Stanlake, T Natarajan, Basil Thampi.
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