Ridiculously good on one day and atrociously bad on the other - probably no other team shifts between these two extremes as swiftly and consistently as the Royal Challengers Bangalore.
Their two-match long season thus far has gone exactly along these lines. A resounding eight-wicket win followed by a crushing 81-run loss. The net run-rate bumped up only to see a fall to -1.256. Suddenly, all their vulnerabilities are at the forefront, flared up further by the unavailabilities of some of their key players. Returning home, Bangalore will be desperate to pick themselves up, get back to winning ways and build over it.
The Lucknow Super Giants, on the other hand, have been clinical when they have got their tactics on point. They have won both their home games but are yet to hoist the victory flag in an away fixture. Meeting Bangalore after their setback, Lucknow will aim to hit them hard and clinch an away win to boost their confidence and playoff chances further.
Reece Topley is ruled out of the tournament. Wanindu Hasaranga will join the squad on the match day but remains doubtful for this fixture given he will be arriving after a busy international season for Sri Lanka. Josh Hazlewood is scheduled to arrive on April 14.
Meanwhile, Lucknow have their full squad available with Quinton de Kock’s return. However, they opted against playing de Kock versus Hyderabad. Mark Wood and Avesh Khan also missed that game but should be available for the matches ahead.
Things to watch out for
The Playing Combinations
Playing combinations of both sides will be under the lens. Bangalore’s batting collapse in Eden Gardens has opened a can of worms. No Rajat Patidar for the season has left them wanting for a number three.
Bangalore tried to fill that void with Michael Bracewell. The Kiwi all-rounder averages 41.3 at number three, his highest at any position in his T20 career, but doing the same in IPL is a different gravy. In addition, Glenn Maxwell is playing without 100% fitness. How Bangalore circumvent these issues will decide their fate in the tournament.
The low and slow conditions of the Ekana Stadium dictated Lucknow’s numerous changes in their win over Hyderabad. There is a good chance they will revert back to their earlier combination, with Mark Wood coming back in the side. It is also a good fixture for Quinton de Kock to be back in the mix. But will Lucknow omit Marcus Stoinis? These are some intriguing questions that will be answered at the toss.
Bangalore’s age old problem
Bangalore’s persistent death bowling issues have already surfaced as a threat to their fortunes this season. Against Mumbai, they leaked 69 runs in the last five overs. Against Kolkata, they splurged 64 runs at the death. Both these instances undid the good work done in the first half of the innings, allowing the opposition to add 20-30 runs extra from the projected score at the halfway mark.
Harshal Patel has been the biggest disappointment. The death over specialist in the side, the right-arm seamer has leaked 62 runs in his four overs at the back end. He has conceded five fours and four sixes, often missing his length. Mohammed Siraj is the other bowler with more than one over at the death and he has leaked 41 from his three overs. Bangalore need both of them to find their rhythm as soon as possible.
Perfect occasion for a KL special
KL Rahul scored a handy 35 in the previous game but by the standards he has set, the Lucknow skipper is yet to hit form this season. Scores of 35, 20 and 8 comprise his slowest start to a season as an opener. Rahul’s journey as an IPL cricketer will reach his hometown Bengaluru after four years. He will also take confidence from his strong record against Bangalore.
Hometown, one of his favorite opposition and the fourth match of the season, the recipe is perfect for Rahul to set the ball rolling for the season.
Although the average first innings score at the M Chinnaswamy Stadium since 2018 is only 165, the first match confirmed the notion that it is a high-scoring venue if the team batting first don’t lose many wickets in the powerplay.
However, the team chasing has gone on to win 10 out of the 18 matches here since 2018 and it will not be surprising if the toss-winning captain elects to bowl first.
While the spinners (8.1) have been far more economical than the pacers (9.7) in T20s since 2018 at this venue, the latter have picked up 60% of the wickets here.
> Both Faf du Plessis and Virat Kohli have shortcomings against left-arm spin. Krunal Pandya spun a web against the Hyderabad batters bowling a three-over spell fairly early in the innings. Expect Lucknow to target Bangalore’s opening pair with Pandya again.
> Playing Quinton de Kock at three can help Lucknow maintain an LHB-RHB pair throughout their top seven (refer to the probable XI below). Bangalore have often used their spinner to target match-ups but can find it tough to use their finger-spinners - Michael Bracewell and Shahbaz Ahmed - if Lucknow pull off this move.
Royal Challengers Bangalore
Bangalore need an extra batter and while toss will dictate if they add one in the main XI or not, Anuj Rawat’s poor returns as the impact sub in the previous game can open the door for Mahipal Lomror or Suyash Prabhudesai.
Virat Kohli, Faf du Plessis ( c ), Mahipal Lomror/Suyash Prabhudesai, Glenn Maxwell, Michael Bracewell, Dinesh Karthik (wk), Shahbaz Ahmed, David Willey, Harshal Patel, Karn Sharma, Mohammed Siraj
Lucknow Super Giants
Expect a number of changes in the Lucknow setup. Quinton de Kock is favorite to come in for Marcus Stoinis. If fit, Mark Wood should also come in for Romario Shepherd. Amit Mishra picked 2/23 against Hyderabad but could make way for Avesh Khan. Again, it depends on Avesh’s fitness.
KL Rahul ( c ), Kyle Mayers, Quinton de Kock (wk), Deepak Hooda, Nicholas Pooran, Ayush Badoni, Krunal Pandya, Mark Wood, Jaydev Unadkat, Yash Thakur/Avesh Khan, Ravi Bishnoi