Charged-up RCB lock horns with Gujarat Lions in race to final
Having won four of their last league games on the trot, the Virat Kohli-led RCB finished on the second spot on the points table while Suresh Raina's Gujarat Lions have had a successful debut campaign to atop the standings
The stage is all set for the IPL play-offs with the conclusion of the league phase as a rampaging Royal Challengers Bangalore (RCB) take on Gujarat Lions in the first qualifier in Bengaluru on Tuesday.
Having won four of their last league games on the trot, the Virat Kohli-led RCB finished on the second spot on the points table while Suresh Raina's Gujarat Lions have had a successful debut campaign to atop the standings.
Going into Tuesday's clash at the M. Chinnaswamy Stadium, both the sides will have an advantage. While the winning team will book a place in the final, the losing team will get to play in the second qualifier against the winner of the eliminator for a place in the title clash.
In the first qualifier, RCB will not only have the advantage of playing the high pressure game on their home ground but also can take solace from their all-round effort in the six-wicket win against Delhi Daredevils on Sunday.
The Bangalore franchise, runners-up in 2009 and 2011, will hope for a solid start from the in-form batting trio of skipper Kohli, West Indian Chris Gayle and South African AB de Villiers.
With 919 runs so far in the tournament, Kohli, who has amassed four tons and five fifties, is a shy away from breaking another IPL record of becoming first to score 1,000 runs in a single edition of IPL.
Lokesh Rahul, Shane Watson and youngster Sachin Baby form a formidable middle order followed by the likes of all-rounder Stuart Binny.
The bowling department which was a weak link for the side in the earlier part of the league phase, has also come to the party towards the business end with the pace-spin duo of Watson and Yuzvendra Chahal among the top five wicket-takers.
With 19 wickets so far, leg-spinner Chahal is the purple cap holder while Australian veteran all-rounder Watson, with 16 wickets is fifth.
On the other hand, Raina has led debutants Gujarat from the front with back-to-back half centuries in the final two league matches to finish on top of the standings.
Apart from Raina, the batting will centre around West Indian Dwayne Smith, former New Zealand skipper Brendon McCullum, Australian Aaron Finch and stumper Dinesh Karthik.
Gujarat also boasts of quality all-rounders in Dwayne Bravo and Ravindra Jadeja, who can add enough firepower in the lower order.
The bowling department has variety in its ranks with chinaman Shivil Kaushik being one of the finds of the tournament while veteran medium pacer Praveen Kumar has also been impressive with his new ball partner Dhawal Kulkarni.
Smith, with his gentle medium pace has been an effective weapon for Raina to contain the rival batters while the left-arm spin of Jadeja and Shadab Jakati will be good test for the RCB batters, who will relish playing at the home turf.