The IPL 2022 playoffs race is heating up, and Royal Challengers Bangalore (RCB) is in the thick of it. Faf du Plessis' men come into Friday night's match at the Brabourne Stadium on the back of two successive wins, while three losses in its last five games have left its opponent Punjab Kings (PBKS) playing catch up in the race for the last four.
While Virat Kohli's indifferent form — vs SRH, he bagged his third golden duck in the last six T20 innings — is a major talking point, it is the match-up between Dinesh Karthik and Arshdeep Singh that could decide the outcome of the battle between these two effective death bowling sides.
Karthik’s scoring rate of 14.7rpo against pace in IPL 2022 is the highest for any batter with 200-plus runs this season. While so far in eight innings, left-arm seamer Arshdeep's economy rate of 7.25 at the death is the best for a fast bowler with a minimum of 50-plus balls in the last four overs.
In their first match of the season, Arshdeep had bowled a parsimonious 18th over to keep Karthik and Virat Kohli quiet when RCB was going at nearly 10 an over.
Meanwhile, RCB’s bowling has been boosted by the addition of Josh Hazlewood, who has continued to excel with the new and the old ball. In a combined eight overs against Chennai Super Kings and Sunrisers, Hazlewood conceded only 36 runs and picked three wickets. His face-off with Liam Livingstone, who is striking at an astounding 210.28 against pacers, will be intriguing.
Punjab’s batting, though, has the worst run rate (6.89) of all teams against spin bowling so far, which RCB’s spin triplets Wanindu Hasaranga, Shahbaz Ahmed and Glenn Maxwell could exploit. Maxwell, RCB's sixth bowler, has picked four wickets at an economy rate of under 7. PBKS openers have to target him, especially if he is introduced in the PowerPlay.
The Brabourne Stadium has been a high-scoring venue, with teams going at 9.16rpo. But it's the bowling might of both teams that could have the final say.