AB de Villiers is in form. Glenn Maxwell is thriving. A hard-hitting team somehow found a way to adapt to the slowest pitch in the IPL.
When Chennai provided even the slightest hint of a batting track, Royal Challengers Bangalore racked up 29 boundaries against a pretty decent bowling team.
Imagine the damage they can do at a place like Wankhede. An unbeaten start to the tournament with their key players clicking. All they need now is a Virat Kohli masterclass.
Rajasthan Royals are just as dangerous with the bat. They’ve threatened to chase down 222. But they’ve also crumbled from 87 for 2 to 95 for 7. Sanju Samson, their captain, had a wry smile on his face when he spoke about this nature of theirs at the presentation in the last match. He’ll need to find a fix for this, fast.
While he did not play any part in the Royals’ games so far, one of their batting options, Liam Livingstone, has left the IPL with bubble fatigue.
Finn Allen is a big hitter. Wankhede is a tiny ground. It’s a match made in T20 heaven and on a podcast with commentator Ian Smith, Royal Challengers coach Mike Hesson suggested they might take advantage of that. Allen hit 71 off 29 the last time he played a cricket match.
Royal Challengers Bangalore: 1 Virat Kohli (capt), 2 Finn Allen, 3 Devdutt Padikkal, 4 Glenn Maxwell, 5 AB de Villiers (wk), 6 Kyle Jamieson, 7 Washington Sundar, 8 Shahbaz Ahmed, 9 Harshal Patel, 10 Mohammed Siraj, 11 Yuzvendra Chahal
Rajasthan Royals: 1 Jos Buttler, 2 Yashasvi Jaiswal/Manan Vohra, 3 Sanju Samson (capt & wk), 4 Shivam Dube/Shreyas Gopal, 5 David Miller, 6 Riyan Parag, 7 Rahul Tewatia, 8 Chris Morris, 9 Jaydev Unadkat, 10 Chetan Sakariya, 11 Mustafizur Rahman
- Shreyas Gopal has dismissed de Villiers four times, and Kohli three times in T20 cricket. Royals might find that head-to-head is worth exploring again.
- Yuzvendra Chahal has dismissed Samson five times in T20 cricket. He has also dismissed David Miller three times in five innings in the IPL. The Royal Challengers already use their ace legspinner as a middle overs wicket-taker. Based on those head-to-heads, wickets are likely to be on offer.
Stats that matter
- Even though he has had to deal with Chennai slow, spinning conditions, de Villiers has been IPL 2021’s most destructive death-overs (16-20) batter. He has made 75 runs off 30 balls at a strike-rate of 250. Thanks to him, Royal Challengers have maintained a run-rate of 11.75 in this phase of the game
- Royals, meanwhile, have one of the worst performing death bowling attacks this season, leaking 12 runs per over. This match-up is not going to go well.
- Royal Challengers bought Maxwell to attack spin and to give them power through the middle overs (6-16). So far, it’s worked a treat. He is the only player in this IPL to have scored more than 100 runs against spinners, and he hasn’t been dismissed by them. He has also made 125 runs in 87 balls in the middle overs (6-16) this IPL. Only Shikhar Dhawan (145 off 93) has done better.
- Chetan Sakariya has used his left-arm angle very shrewdly against right-hand batters. Of his six wickets this season, five have been right-handers. There are three huge ones in the Royal Challengers line-up that Royals will want him to take out.
Alagappan Muthu is a sub-editor at ESPNcricinfo