More often than not, the hustle and bustle of the Pepsi IPL 2014 has made it impossible for visiting teams to schedule a practice session ahead of an away game.
For most teams, it’s not an ideal scenario. For Kings XI Punjab, who will be facing Royal Challengers Bangalore at M Chinnaswamy Stadium on Friday (May 9), less than 48 hours after brushing aside Chennai Super Kings in Cuttack, the only inconvenience might be not having a chance to bask in the afterglow of their win before hopping aboard a plane.
Punjab reclaimed their position at the top of the points table on Wednesday, cantering to a 44-run win against the two-time IPL champions after posting 231 for 4, a tournament high. It was courtesy another Glenn Maxwell special (90 off 38, 6×4, 8×6), but Virender Sehwag, David Miller and George Bailey also pulled their weight – a cause for worry for the remaining teams, Bangalore first and foremost.
Bangalore were wayward against Mumbai on Tuesday, conceding 25 extras, and the lax fielding only added to their woes. It came back to haunt them when the middle order faltered, despite a strong start by the openers, and they went on to lose by 19 runs.
Bangalore can ill afford a repeat of that performance against Punjab. His altercation with Kieron Pollard notwithstanding, Mitchell Starc has been exemplary for Bangalore, picking up nine wickets at an economy rate below 6.5. Varun Aaron remains the leading wicket-taker for the side with 11 wickets, but has shown a tendency to unravel at the death, as has Ashok Dinda. Yuzvendra Chahal could be key to stemming the flow of runs.
It’s no secret that the batsmen have traditionally enjoyed the pitch at the Chinnaswamy, but in this contest, it could prove a double-edged sword as both sides have batsmen who can take the game away. The orange cap may be on Maxwell’s head in the seventh edition of IPL, but it was almost a part of Chris Gayle’s daily ensemble in the past three seasons. Gayle has shown glimpses of what he can do, and will be eager to entertain the home crowd.
While Parthiv Patel has provided a good foil for Gayle, Virat Kohli will be another one to watch out for. Though he’s looked confident, his impatience has got the better of him of late. However, when it comes to Kohli, a big knock can never be too far away.
The good news for Bangalore is that their next three games will be played in front of a loyal and vociferous crowd at home. With seven games left, the side needs to win at least five to ensure they are through to the next stage. Sunrisers Hyderabad witnessed on Sunday night how the fans can get behind a player and spur him to victory, however difficult the task may seem.
That should bode well for Yuvraj Singh, who has been off colour for a while now, but only needs that one knock to turn fortunes around – both his own and his team’s.
Punjab, sitting pretty after six wins and one loss, will need to keep their composure. They succumbed to Mumbai at the Wankhede Stadium, but will want to put one past Bangalore at home to prove that partisan crowds can’t deter them.
While the batting looks solid, Punjab may want to bring back Laxmipathy Balaji for Murali Kartik. Kartik replaced Balaji in the previous game, but was profligate, conceding 40 runs in his four overs. He also played with Bangalore last season, and though he may know a few secrets about his former teammates, they will also know how to work him out.
There was an afternoon shower and the covers remained for the rest of the day, adding another level of intrigue to an already thrilling contest. With chance of rain on Friday as well, the bowlers will be hoping for some zip from the surface so the game doesn’t become just a battle between batsmen.
Royal Challengers Bangalore: Chris Gayle, Parthiv Patel (wk), Virat Kohli (capt), Yuvraj Singh, AB de Villiers, Albie Morkel, Mitchell Starc, Yuzvendra Chahal, Ashok Dinda, Ravi Rampaul, Muttiah Muralitharan, Varun Aaron, Vijay Zol, Abu Nechim Ahmed, Shadab Jakati, Sandeep Warrier, Harshal Patel, Tanmay Mishra, Sachin Rana, Yogesh Takawale, Rilee Rossouw.
Kings XI Punjab: George Bailey (capt), David Miller, Manan Vohra, Virender Sehwag, Mitchell Johnson, Cheteshwar Pujara, Shaun Marsh, Wriddhiman Saha (wk), Thisara Perera, Glenn Maxwell, Parvinder Awana, L Balaji, Gurkeerat Singh, Mandeep Singh, Rishi Dhawan, Anureet Singh, Sandeep Sharma, Akshar Patel, Beuran Hendricks, Karanveer Singh, Murali Kartik, Shivam Sharma, Shardul Thakur.