The Indian Premier League season continues on Friday when two sides chasing a spot in the top four at the end of the campaign meet when the Royal Challengers Bangalore square up to the Punjab Kings at the Brabourne Stadium.
Bangalore currently occupy the final playoff spot but their net run rate makes them vulnerable to the chasing pack, of which the Kings will be looking to lead the way if they can come out of this match with a victory.
Royal Challengers Bangalore
Usually when a team has seven wins in a campaign they only need one more to be certain of a top four spot but that negative run rate leaves them vulnerable so they might need two wins from their final two matches. They would probably be targeting that anyway as if they can achieve them they could yet reach the top two and give themselves a couple of goes at making it through to the final, which every team would like the safety net of.
The positive for the Royal Challengers Bangalore is that they look to be rounding into form at the right time, especially with the bat which is the area they have taken the longest to get up to speed in this season. There is still room for improvement in that department too with Virat Kohli nowhere near close to his top form. Assuming the bowlers don’t suddenly blow up, and to be fair they will be fully tested here, then it is hard to see Bangalore not making the top four.
We are in the last chance saloon for the Punjab Kings now. We know how they are going to attack the match, they’ll be looking for everything to go but even though they took the Bangalore bowling to the cleaners in the first game between these two, that remains a risky strategy. Even if they do manage to get after the Bangalore bowling successfully, they will still need to ensure their own bowlers come to the party because this is a Royal Challengers batting unit which is coming good at the right time.
The problem that Punjab have is that they need to win their last three matches to have any chance of extending their season but they haven’t won successive games so far this term so it seems a bit of a reach to expect them to win three on the spin. All they can do is win the first one and see where it takes them. They might also need to address their net run rate but they certainly have the power with the bat to do that in the right conditions.
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Glenn Maxwell was excellent with the ball in the last match and there were also signs that he is coming good with the bat too. If he can inject early life into the batting innings and claim a scalp with the ball he’ll have Bangalore on top.
Given that the Punjab Kings don’t just need to win their last three matches but also address their net run rate, Liam Livingstone feels like a big player here. If he can get cracking and either bolster a score in the first innings or completely decimate the required run rate in a second innings it will serve a huge purpose for the outsiders.
There were 27 sixes hit when these two sides met in the first game between the two and I’m expecting to see plenty more here. I say that for a couple of reasons. The obvious one is the amount we saw at the DY Patil Stadium and they came without Glenn Maxwell playing in that match so the chance of more sixes is there. This Brabourne Stadium wicket has been good for batting throughout the competition too and this is the first match there for a week so there shouldn’t be an issue with a tired pitch.
The other reason why I like a lot of sixes in this match is because both teams have a negative net run rate and should the chance arise to get the match over with quickly and boost that part of their artillery then I am sure it will be taken, especially if the wicket is as good for batting as I expect it to be. Both these bowling units have gone for plenty at different times this season and both have serious depth to their batting. Over 13.5 sixes feels like a fairly obvious bet to me here.
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