Bangalore set for a Royal battle

Bangalore, April 19 (IANS) In what promises to be a battle royale, hosts Royal Challengers Bangalore (RCB) have their task cut out to stop the winning-streak of front-runners Rajasthan Royals in the Pepsi Indian Premier League (IPL) Saturday at the Chinnaswamy Stadium, further fortified in the light of this week's bomb blast.

While the teams will strive to keep their focus on cricket, RCB, who have eight points from six games, will be looking to sustain their unbeaten run at home where they have won all the four matches so far this season.

Of the four wins, two have been touch-and-go with a Super Over scramble against the Sunrisers Hyderabad earlier this week when RCB contrived to nearly lose the game from a winning position.

RCB skipper Virat Kohli was spot-on when he blamed the batsmen for not showing "common sense" while chasing Sunrisers' total of 152 for five. The hosts ended with 152 for seven after being 129 for two at one stage.

In contrast, the Rahul Dravid-led Rajasthan Royals, who are also on eight, but from five outings, have been in fine fettle and barring the lone defeat in Pune, won their other four games, three of them at home, quite comfortably.

The Royals has shown the sparkle and dash of the inaugural 2008 season when, under Shane Warne, they annexed their only IPL title and are well on course to repeating the feat.

RCB's dependence on their three key batsmen -- opener Chris Gayle, Kohli and AB de Villiers -- needs no emphasis. With the trio in top form, their batting has not been of as much concern as their bowling that has a pronounced pace orientation with their frontline spinners getting limited opportunities.

Off-spinner Muttiah Muralitharan sat out the last two games as did left-arm spinner Murali Karthik while Daniel Vettori, the former skipper, is yet to get an outing. With the pitch offering true bounce and some movement, the theory has been that pace is the way forward.

In contrast, the Royals, a team without stars barring Dravid and Shane Watson, have showcased their all-round ability. Skipper Dravid, for whom it will be homecoming of sorts this weekend, has marshalled his resources extremely well as evidenced in their thumping 84-run win over Mumbai Indians in Jaipur on Wednesday.

Royals have been adept in setting, defending and chasing targets -- though against Pune, they succumbed to opener Aaron Finch's onslaught, losing the game by seven wickets. Barring that hiccup, it has been fairly smooth sailing for Royals and on current form, they seem to have the firepower to get the better of RCB on the morrow.

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