With the second half of the IPL 2017 season upon us, the race for securing those coveted play-off spots is heating up. While Rising Pune Supergiant (RPS) have won four matches and stand a solid chance of reaching the knockouts if they can continue their resurgence, Royal Challengers Bangalore (RCB) are hanging by the skin of their teeth to remain in contention.
As another loss will bring the curtains down on their challenge, Virat Kohli and his troops could find themselves under immense pressure. The clash between these two teams on Saturday at the Maharashtra Cricket Association (MCA) Stadium promises to an entertaining affair.
Here are five factors which could go a long way in influencing the match.
#5 With the bat
Not many would have known about Rahul Tripathi before this season started. However, the right-hander has been a revelation of sorts at the top of the order for RPS. With five consecutive 30-plus scores, he is on a roll at the moment.
If the 26-year old continues his merry run, the foundation will be set for the explosive finishers such as MS Dhoni. The veteran is gradually getting into the groove and will be looking to flex his muscles in the death overs.
For the Royal Challengers, the onus will be on skipper Kohli to lead from the front and build partnerships with the other experienced batsmen. Even if the pitch offers something for the seamers, they simply cannot afford another top-order collapse.
#4 With the ball
With Pune’s top-order gathering runs aplenty, there will be increased expectations on Samuel Badree to land the early blows. The seasoned leg-spinner possesses the ability to create an impact during the Powerplay overs.
Yuzvendra Chahal should come into his own in the middle-overs. The visitors will rely on his accurate lines as well as the knack of picking up wickets in clusters.
In what should complete an eye-catching troika of wrist-spinners on display during the game, Imran Tahir needs a solid performance to shoulder the burden of Pune’s bowling fortunes. The presence of all-rounders like Ben Stokes and Daniel Christian should add considerable depth to the side.
Following his team’s embarrassing display against Gujarat Lions, a visibly disappointed Kohli declared, “We need to get better with our performances. You got to come out and play with intent. The only way to come out of it is to play positive cricket. We are putting too much pressure on the team. Individuals need to stand up and take responsibility.”
Even though their situation is quite desperate, RCB need to look at the positive side of things and come out all guns blazing as if they do not have anything to lose.
Even though he scored 46, Ajinkya Rahane’s strike-rate of 112.19 was a major talking point in Pune’s defeat at the hands of Kolkata Knight Riders (KKR). It becomes imperative for the opening batsman to pick up the pace and not leave all the heavy lifting to those coming after him.
#2 Pitch and conditions
The MCA Stadium has hosted four matches in the season thus far. Aside from one odd instance of RPS getting bowled out for 108 against Delhi Daredevils, all the other team totals have been in excess of the 170-run mark.
Due to the type of soil found underneath the surface, the curators can roll out green tracks or rank turner with equal ease. However, another batting-friendly pitch is likely to greet both sides.
At the team’s home base, skipper Steven Smith has registered scores of 84*, 27 and 51*. Maybe, Pune’s collapse against the Daredevils could be attributed to the fact that he was not playing in that game. Having taken a liking to the venue, he will be eyeing another substantial score.
#1 Possible pitfalls
The Achilles’ heel of the team composition of Pune lies in their bowling attack. Apart from the usually dependable Tahir and Stokes to a certain extent, there appears to be an acute shortage of game-changing wicket takers in the playing eleven.
The inexperience of their Indian bowling contingent should be a bit of concern for captain Smith as well as the coaching staff.
Meanwhile, the collectively mediocre form of RCB’s batting lineup has been the prime reason behind their dismal run during this season. If they fail to get off to a strong start once again, the lower order's resolve will be put to the test.