An array of stars will lineup at the M Chinnaswamy Stadium on Sunday for the match between Royal Challengers (RCB) and Rising Pune Supergiant (RPS). The former have had the wood for the latter with two victories in as many games during last year’s edition. However, past history may not count for much in this format and the stage is set for an interesting tussle.
With both teams languishing in the lower half of the points table at the early stages of this season, the game will be crucial in their bid for the two points on offer. Let us take a look at the four important head-to-head battles which could influence the contest.
#4 – Yuzvendra Chahal vs MS Dhoni
MS Dhoni’s scores in this season thus far read – 12*, 5, 11 and 5. Struggling to time the ball and find the gaps, the veteran’s woeful form has aggravated Pune’s issues in the batting department. On the other hand, Yuzvendra Chahal has been quite steady despite not taking a bucket load of wickets. His economy rate stands at a miserly 6.96.
It will be fascinating to witness the tussle between these two players who are at contrasting stages of their respective careers. During last season’s game, Dhoni picked up three singles from four deliveries off Chahal. While the veteran wicket-keeper batsman is usually solid against leg-spinners, his opponent is someone whose accuracy and flight pose a different type of threat.
#3 – Lockie Ferguson vs Virat Kohli
After being picked up by RPS at his base price of INR 50 lakhs, New Zealand’s express pacer Lockie Ferguson made his IPL debut against Gujarat Lions at the SCA Stadium in Rajkot. However, he turned to be pretty expensive and parted with 44 runs from his full quota of overs. Meanwhile, Kohli returned to lead RCB against Mumbai Indians on Friday. The star right-hander immediately got into his groove with a half-century.
Even though RPS contain Ben Stokes who had a skirmish or two with Kohli during the India-England Test series last year, the skipper’s battle against Ferguson could be more eye-catching due to the Kiwi’s extra pace. However, he needs to get his radar right as the shorter boundaries at this venue offer very little margin for error.
#2 – Samuel Badree vs Steven Smith
Badree wrecked Mumbai’s batting lineup in the previous game with an amazing hat-trick. However, his magical spell was not enough for RCB to get over the line. Captain Kohli may not look to finish the leg-spinner’s quota of overs before the half-way mark to ensure that his bowling stocks retain enough firepower towards the latter stages.
With Steven Smith coming in at number three and controlling the flow of the innings, the face-off between the two trump cards becomes pivotal to the direction of the game. Badree’s tight line in and around the middle stump makes it difficult for the unorthodox right-hander to wriggle free. On the other hand, the batsman’s swift use of the feet could throw the Trinidadian’s plans off balance.
#1 – Imran Tahir vs AB de Villiers
Despite being the world’s number one bowler in both ODIs and T20Is, Imran Tahir went unsold in the auction. However, he subsequently signed up with RPS as Mitchell Marsh’s replacement. With five wickets from his first two matches in this season, he did not take too long to showcase his skills.
On Sunday, Tahir will be up against South African team-mate AB de Villiers. The ace batsman has proved that his power game would work even on sluggish pitches when he scored a 46-ball 89 in Indore. The game of one-upmanship between the two Proteas stars should make for gripping viewing.
While the leg-spinner’s googly is an identifiable threat for any batsman, de Villiers tends to pick up length quite early. It remains to be seen if the right-hander employs his outlandish shots behind the wicket against the wily customer.