It has been a start-stop sort of tournament so far for Punjab Kings (PBKS) and Royal Challengers Bangalore (RCB), who have been unable to stitch a string of match-winning performances together and as a result, are ideally not where they would want to be in the reasonably early stages of the Indian Premier League (IPL) 2023.
However, a new day presents an opportunity to change fortunes around and both sides would hope that this is the start of the turnaround.
There have been glimpses of some brilliant individual performances from both sides - be it Shikhar Dhawan’s unbeaten 99 against Hyderabad or Glenn Maxwell’s aggressive knock against Chennai in the last game.
Dhawan will be certainly be welcomed back with both hands given that he has played the role of an anchor to perfection this season. However, he has shown his acceleration power when needed. When he has faced more than 30 balls this season, he has operated at a strike-rate of 190 and has found the fence every 3.1 deliveries.
Things to watch out for
Mohammed Siraj has turned a corner this year, and has been a standout performer especially in the powerplay – a drastic improvement from last season.
His dot ball% of 69 is the highest this season (Min: 6 overs) and has been the reason behind RCB’s impressive show in the powerplay so far. RCB have conceded more than 50 just once in the powerplay this season, and three out of the five times they have not even conceded 40, and Siraj has a huge role to play in it.
Punjab’s ‘middle’ problems
One of the main reasons PBKS have had a shaky season so far is that their middle-order has not stepped out to the plate, especially in overs 7-15.
In the middle-overs, they have the worst run-rate (7.6), one of the worst average runs per wicket ratio (24.3) and have not cleared the ropes frequently (9 sixes).
The middle-order (4-7) have collectively scored at a strike-rate of 123 and hit a six every 6.4 deliveries which is the worst among all teams this season. Sikandar Raza offered a glimmer of hope with a timely fifty last game, but Punjab need someone else to step up and do it consistently. The injection of Liam Livingstone is perhaps something this team is missing.
Only three players have scored more runs in the middle-overs (7-15) than Maxwell in the IPL since 2021 and only one batter – Rahul Tripathi (150.5) – has scored at a better strike rate than the RCB batter, who strikes at 146.3 in this period. Maxwell showed against CSK that he can take the match away from the opposition in a blink of an eye. In order to stop that, Punjab could use Harpreet Brar against Maxwell.
Brar has dismissed Maxwell twice in the IPL and has conceded just 17 runs off 13 balls. Moreover, he has been dismissed six times by orthodox spinners in the IPL since 2021.
In Mohali since 2019, the average first innings score has been 162, while the average match-winning score shoots up to 180. The pacers have ruled roost here having picked up over 65% of the wickets, which accounts to over three wickets per innings. Out of the 22 wickets to have fallen this year at this venue, pacers have picked up 16.
In both the matches at the IS Bindra Stadium, the team who have won the toss have decided to bowl first. The good news, however, is that dew will not play a part given that this is a day game. A total of 160-170 could very well be a match-winning one here.
The good news for PBKS is that skipper Shikhar Dhawan is back in training, which bolsters his chance to return to the side following a shoulder niggle. Along with Dhawan, Liam Livingstone, who is yet to play a game this season, will undergo a fitness test. They will slot right into the XI if all goes well.
Shikhar Dhawan, Prabhsimran Singh, Matthew Short/Liam Livingstone, Sikandar Raza, Sam Curran (c), Jitesh Sharma (wk), Shahrukh Khan, Harpreet Brar, Kagiso Rabada, Rahul Chahar, Arshdeep Singh
Royal Challengers Bangalore
Despite their loss to CSK, RCB could very well go in with the same XI, but will need some runs from Mahipal Lomror and Shahbaz Ahmed as well.
Virat Kohli, Faf du Plessis (c), Mahipal Lomror, Glenn Maxwell, Shahbaz Ahmed, Dinesh Karthik (wk), Harshal Patel, Wanindu Hasaranga, Wayne Parnell, Vijaykumar Vyshak, Mohammed Siraj