SHARJAH: Unbeaten so far, the Royal Challengers Bangalore (RCB) would be eyeing a hat-trick of wins to go to the top of points table even as Kolkata Knight Riders (KKR) look to shake off their last match’s disappointment when the two sides clash against each other in their Indian Premier League (IPL) match in Sharjah on Thursday.
The star-studded Bangalore, which boast of some of the most feared Twenty20 batsmen in their line-up, have won both their games so far. The results have come despite the absence of the destructive Chris Gayle, who has been nursing a sore back. He is, however, expected to be fit for tomorrow’s match.
In his absence, the likes of Yuvraj Singh, Parthiv Patel and South African import AB de Villiers have made quite a statement with their efforts to show that the days of RCB being called a one-man show are over. A slight concern has been skipper Virat Kohli, who is yet to hit the groove, but given his reputation, the lean patch is not expected to last too long.
Kolkata too have a good line-up at their disposal and it too has fared well. Even though there aren’t any big stars to boast of, the likes of Manish Pandey and Robin Uthappa have made their presence felt.
However, more would be expected of established players such as skipper Gautam Gambhir and South African legend Jacques Kallis. The form of both these players would be crucial in deciding how far the team manages to progress. Besides them, all-rounder Yusuf Pathan will also have to repay the faith that the team has shown in him despite a prolonged struggle for form.
RCB have slight edge in the bowling department. Mitchell Starc, Albie Morkel and Varun Aaron stifled the star-studded defending champions, Mumbai Indians (MI), in their previous match. The trio would be quite a challenge for KKR to deal with in tomorrow’s game.
The KKR bowling, on the other hand, was taken to the cleaners by Delhi Daredevils in their previous game. The likes of Morne Morkel and R Vinay Kumar seemed helpless as Delhi’s batsmen hit them all over the park.
KKR’s bowlers will find it hard to contain and dismiss RCB’s destructive-looking line-up and it would take a special effort for them to escape an onslaught. Given the make-up of the two teams RCB will start clear favourites tomorrow, but KKR would look to spring a surprise.
PLAYERS WHO CAN MAKE IMPACT
Gautam Gambhir: The left hander was the pillar of Knight Riders’ title win in the 2012, but with two ducks in two matches, he has often left the team in peril. Luckily for him, two of the team’s fresh domestic recruits have hit the ground running, but as the past results have shown, the team’s fortunes are intertwined with Gambhir’s batting form.
Chris Gayle: The Jamacian swashbuckler had his best impression with the bat with the RCB, and after missing couple of games due to back spasm he will be eager to repeat the dose. Pitches in Sharjah are batting friendly, and small size ground would make Gayle’s job easier.
KICK OFF TIME
KKR VERSUS RCB
TIME: 08:00 PM