Royal Challengers Bangalore will have an eye on a top-two finish when it takes on Sunrisers Hyderabad at the Sheikh Zayed Stadium in Abu Dhabi on Wednesday.
Wins in the remaining two games – the second against table-topper Delhi Capitals – will take the Virat Kohli-led side to 20 points, and if Chennai Super Kings loses to Punjab Kings in its last game, second place, and with that two chances to qualify for the final, can be RCB’s.
On current form, RCB can fancy its chances. It has won three matches on the bounce with contributions from nearly every member of the playing XI. Of these, Glenn Maxwell with three consecutive half-centuries, Harshal Patel with 26 wickets and Yuzvendra Chahal with 14 wickets have shone the brightest.
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However, one facet RCB can look to improve is the scoring rate immediately after PowerPlay. Kohli and Devdutt Padikkal, excellent otherwise, have tended to slow down in the middle overs. Runs at a brisk pace can bring greater rewards.
Mohammed Siraj has claimed just one wicket from five matches in the UAE leg, but the bowling unit as a whole has held strong.
For SRH, already out of the tournament, there is little to play for. Green shoots ahead of the next season are all that Kane Williamson will be looking for.
There is hope in Umran Malik, who was brought in as a short-term replacement for T. Natarajan. The 21-year-old Jammu & Kashmir cricketer’s searing pace against Kolkata Knight Riders forced everyone to sit up and take notice. The next few matches will be revealing.