Punjab Kings will have their task cut to revive a stuttering campaign when they face a high-flying Royal Challengers Bangalore in the Indian Premier League in Ahmedabad on Friday.
On one side, the team based out of Karnataka are on tremendous form. On the other side, the team with strong representation from Karnataka (and a fair few former RCB players in their ranks) have struggled.
Smarting from a five-wicket defeat at the hands of Kolkata Knight Riders it will not be an easy task for a struggling Punjab side to stand up to the challenge thrown by a RCB team, which has been firing on all cylinders for most part of the tournament so far.
IPL head to head RCB vs Punjab
|Matches||RCB wins||Punjab wins|
Following four losses and two wins, Punjab are currently placed sixth in the league table with four points, whereas RCB are third with 10 points from five wins, only behind Chennai Super Kings and Delhi Capitals on net run rate.
Apart from the sole loss against CSK, RCB have emerged as strong contenders for the elusive title, with many of their players striking form in the early part of the tournament.
Punjab’s inconsistent batting has been a letdown so far. In their six games, the KL Rahul-led side have gone on to make the three low totals batting first — 106, 120 and 123.
While Rahul, who has scored 91, 5, 61, 4, 60 not out and 19 so far, has been their most prolific batsman this season, his strike rates have again come under the scanner. Slow starts have hampered Punjab, and he is caught between the rock and hard place of trying to avoid getting out early and playing at a good tempo as the team struggles if he falls early too. Familiar problems for the side, and one that has not been addressed in the off-season.
Rahul and Co did do the double over RCB in 2020, if there is some motivation to be found in that. In their first meeting last season, Rahul smashed a century (with help from RCB fielders) as Punjab won by a massive margin of 97 runs. In the second match in Sharjah too, Punjab chased down 171 with eight wickets to spare, despite taking it till the last ball.
Mayank Agrawal has been guilty of wasting his starts barring one game while Chris Gayle has made only good scores in six outings. The dynamic Nicholas Pooran is having a poor run this season. The swashbuckling West Indian has managed just 28 runs in the five innings which includes three ducks. His highest was 19 against KKR.
The team does have England’s Dawid Malan waiting in the wings, if they are looking for a boost to their batting, but it would have to come at the expense of either Gayle or Pooran.
With not enough runs on the board against KKR, the Punjab bowlers could not do much. But the bowling unit has lacked penetration, with the new recruits Jhye Richardson and Riley Meredith — brought in because Rahul wanted pace in his arsenal — not paying off so far.
PBKS were unable to defend 195 against Delhi Capitals and almost conceded the game to Rajasthan Royals while defending 221, pulling out a four-run victory in the end.
On the other hand, RCB will be high on confidence after they held their nerves to pip Delhi Capitals by one-run. While it was Ab de Villiers who delivered once again with the bat, the bowlers put up a collective effort to give RCB their fifth win of the season.
The RCB batting remains top-heavy and reliant on the performances of Virat Kohli, Devdutt Padikkal, de Villiers and Australian all-rounder Glenn Maxwell. But it augurs well for the team that all four players have performed well, even if Kohli has not been able to put together a consistent run of scores.
Rajat Patidar showed what he is capable of in the previous match while Kyle Jamieson can also hit a few down the order.
The RCB bowling department has been impressive led by pacers Harshal Patel, the Purple Cap holder by some distance, and Mohammed Siraj. The latter did well to defend 14 of the final over against DC, with the dangerous Rishabh Pant and Shimron Hetmyer in the middle.
Punjab Kings: KL Rahul (c & wk), Mayank Agarwal, Chris Gayle, Mandeep Singh, Prabsimran Singh, Nicholas Pooran (wk), Sarfaraz Khan, Deepak Hooda, Murugan Ashwin, Ravi Bishnoi, Harpreet Brar, Mohammed Shami, Arshdeep Singh, Ishan Porel, Darshan Nalkande, Chris Jordan, Dawid Malan, Jhye Richardson, Shahrukh Khan, Riley Meredith, Moises Henriques, Jalaj Saxena, Utkarsh Singh, Fabian Allen, Saurabh Kumar.
Royal Challengers Bangalore: Virat Kohli (C), AB de Villiers (W), Devdutt Padikkal, Mohammed Siraj, Navdeep Saini, Pavan Deshpande, Shahbaz Ahmed, MS Washington Sundar, Yuzvendra Chahal, Daniel Sams, Harshal Patel, Glenn Maxwell, Sachin Baby, Rajat Patidar, Mohammed Azharuddeen, Kyle Jamieson, Dan Christian, Suyash Prabhudessai, K S Bharat, Finn Allen.
Match starts at 7.30 PM.