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It's now or never for RCB

Virat Kohli’s Royal Challengers Bangalore are left with a mountain to climb in their bid to qualify for the playoffs as they host the high-flying Chennai Super Kings in their concluding Indian Premier League fixture here today.

Royal Challengers Bangalore
Royal Challengers Bangalore players celebrate the wicket of Sachin Tendulkar during their match against Mumbai Indians at Wankhede recently

The M Chinnaswamy Stadium, that was long considered as the RCB’s impregnable fortress, especially after six consecutive wins this season, was breached earlier this week when Kings XI Punjab chased down a target of 175 to win by seven wickets.

Shocking defeat
The shock defeat at home certainly stopped the RCB’s progress at 16 points. They have to reckon with two more teams, the Sunrisers Hyderabad and Kings XI Punjab in the race for the fourth play-off berth.

All the three teams have a realistic chance of joining the top three — Mumbai Indians (22), Super Kings (22) and Rajasthan Royals (20) — in the
playoffs. Hence, the RCB have to necessarily win today if only to eliminate Punjab, who are to play Mumbai Indians at Dharmashala, also today (4 pm).

Mahendra Singh Dhoni-led Super Kings, having made it to the playoffs, will be under less pressure and are expected to play with much more freedom, though their aim would be to finish in the top-two bracket as that will also ensure them a spot in the Champions League.

Thus, the spotlight would be on the RCB who have had three days to recover from the defeat to Kings XI and avenge the loss to Super Kings. The teams met in the league last month in Chennai where the hosts snatched a dramatic last-ball win with RP Singh sending down a no-ball and also conceding a single with the home team needing two runs to win.

The RCB now find themselves in a must-win situation against a team that is among hot favourites to win the trophy. The onus will be on the RCB to lift their overall game and not just be dependent on their three key batsmen, Chris Gayle, Virat Kohli and AB de Villiers to pull them through.

Bowling, a concern
RCB’s bowling, especially in the end-overs, has been a matter of concern with far too many runs leaked at the death and that contributed to their defeats. This is rather ironical considering that the team had focused on strengthening its bowling at this year’s auctions.

In contrast, the CSK’s major stumbling block has been their collective inconsistency in their batting that is considered to be their strength. For, a team that twice put up totals of 200 and more, was bundled out for 79 by Mumbai Indians in a collapse that raised many eyebrows. However, such has been the CSK’s all-round strength that they have not been dependent on one or two players.

Considering the relative strengths of the two teams and the pressure on the RCB, there are strong indicators that the Super Kings could yet pull through on the morrow to extend their hold on their southern neighbours. 

Kohli’s wishlist
> Gayle-storm strikes
> He scores runs in the middle
> AB de Villiers plays a cameo
> Michael Hussey departs early
> Bowlers do not leak runs

Dhoni’s wishlist
> Seamers do not let Gayle off the hook
> Ashwin bowls miserly
> Dwayne Bravo makes an impact with bat and ball
> Michael Hussey lays a solid platform
> He plays a cameo

Live on TV: RCB vs CSK on Set Max and Sony Six, 8pm

When they last met...
RP Singh’s no-ball messed it up for RCB

It was comedy of errors as Chennai Super Kings eked out a win versus Royal Challengers Bangalore with a ball to spare at Chennai on April 13, this year.
Needing two off the last ball, Ravindra Jadeja skied one and was caught off RP Singh’s bowling. But Singh had overstepped and the batters had scampered for a single till the catch was completed. Earlier, half centuries from de Villiers and Kohli propelled RCB to 165 but went in vain.

Brief scores: RCB 165-6 (AB de Villiers 64) lost to CSK 166-6 (Ravindra Jadeja 38*, Ravi Rampaul 3-31) by four wickets  

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