Hosts Royal Challengers will want to replicate their record 144-run win against table-toppers Gujarat Lions when they take on Raina's men in Qualifier 1 today
Bangalore: They started the tournament as favourites but very soon found themselves close to the bottom of the table, where they stayed for a fair while. Their bowlers just couldn't get their act together, the fielding too floundered on occasions while the famed batting at times flattered to deceive. Then one man decided enough was enough, another joined in soon and how, while a third realised it was now or never, and the turnaround happened.
Royal Challengers Bangalore skipper Virat Kohli (left) and AB de Villiers during their record 229-run stand against Gujarat Lions at the M Chinnaswamy Stadium in Bangalore on May 14. Pic/PTI
Virat Kohli, AB de Villiers and Chris Gayle didn't affect a simple turnaround, it was such a complete circle that the Royal Challengers Bangalore, a team that could have been knocked out anytime during their last five games, now have two chances to qualify for the final. Ironically the very team against whom their net run-rate soared to a rare high and allowed them to finish second in the League table, are their opponents in Qualifier 1 tonight at the M Chinnaswamy Stadium here.
Exactly 10 days back, RCB had amassed 248 and then routed the Gujarat Lions for 104 to win by a record 144 runs. The one difference — and it can turn out to be a major one — is that Lions skipper Suresh Raina, who was then on paternity leave, is back and in much better, match-winning form.
With Raina in the fold, it could well be a battle between two powerful batting sides with the Top Five of each side very much comparable. Kohli, Gayle, De Villiers, KL Rahul and Shane Watson up against Aaron Finch, Brendon McCullum, Raina, Dinesh Karthik and Dwayne Smith seems a like-for-like combination but the reality, thanks to the extreme brilliance of Kohli and De Villiers, is that the Bangalore five have raised 1677 runs between them as against the Lions' 1290.
The good news for Gujarat is that their runs are better spread among their Top Five, while for Bangalore it's the trio of Kohli, De Villiers and Rahul who have done the bulk of the scoring.
It, however, is not the number of runs that Kohli & Co have scored but the manner in which they have done so that will be on Raina's mind. With most teams it has been win the toss and chase down the game but the one team against whom that hasn't always worked is RCB. Ask McCullum about it. Add to it the fact that Kohli is the best chaser in the world and Raina's dilemma gets worse.
The saving grace is that his team too has two chances of making the final. Both captains though would rather settle the final spot here and stay back in Bangalore rather than travel to Delhi and hopefully back.
Suresh Raina Gujarat Lions
> Brendon McCullum fires at the start
> Ravindra Jadeja provides an all-round show
> In-form RCB skipper Virat Kohli is dismissed early
Virat Kohli Royal Challengers Bangalore
> He continues his fine form with the bat
> Yuzvendra Chahal takes early wickets
> Opener Chris Gayle does not flop