Time is running out for Royal Challengers Bangalore. In a competition where every side has only eight league games, losing the first three games can be a calamity. It is the first week of the inaugural WPL season, and RCB are at risk of going home early. At the same time, they have the quality in their team to win all their remaining games. But they need to get off the mark first. They are a side that can easily go on a roll with the firepower they persist.
The UP Warriorz, on the other hand, have blown hot and cold. Grace Harris’ madness took them to a win in the first game, but they were pushed aside early against the Delhi Capitals. Against a struggling RCB side, they would be eyeing to reverse their fortunes and live up to their potential.
Things to watch out for
RCB’s bowling in doldrums
RCB have shown glimpses of brilliance with the bat, but their bowling has been smashed all over the park. In three games, RCB bowlers have taken only nine wickets. Four of them have gone to the part-time off-spinner Heather Knight which tells you a lot about their bowling fortunes. Their economy rate of 10.7 is comfortably the worst in the competition.
On a high-scoring venue like Brabourne Stadium, RCB bowlers will have a task at hand. At the same time, they would need to fix their batting as well. Not that anything is broken there, but Smriti Mandhana and Ellyse Perry need to bat longer after getting their eye in.
Another tough call to make for UP
Another game and another tough call await UP regarding their XI. In the first game, they surprised many by excluding Shabnim Ismail. The move paid rich dividends as Grace Harris sailed UP to a win from a near hopeless situation. In their second fixture, the eyebrows raised furthermore as UP excluded Harris for Ismail. Both decisions made sense and yet didn’t.
The conundrum lies in the fact that UP have five overseas players, all of whom demand a place in the XI on merit. Alyssa Healy is the skipper, a star batter and the wicketkeeper in the side. Tahlia McGrath is the number one batter in W-T20Is at present, and Sophie Ecclestone holds the summit position in the bowling department. The choice ultimately lies between Ismail and Harris, both being top-quality players.
UP clearly missed Harris in the previous match where they lost to Delhi by 42 runs. Will they make the change again - replacing Ismail with Harris? Ismail bowled decently, picking 1/29 against Delhi. Another tough call and a tough talk with the players in store for the UP management.
On quite a similar note, RCB can also ponder bringing in Dane van Niekerk for Megan Schutt. If both teams make this change, they will be left with only two pace-bowling options each.
Pitch and conditions
The wicket at the Brabourne Stadium is known to be an absolute belter, and expect the two sides to display an array of strokes all around the ground in this clash. The average score in the first innings is around the 190-run mark, and the match will surely be a high-scoring affair.
On any ground where the average run rate across the innings is around nine runs per over, the bowlers will have their task cut out, and the smaller dimensions of the stadium do not make it any easier.
With the dew factor also set to play a significant role, the two captains will be looking to chase down the total as the wicket becomes much better in the second innings, and the ball comes nicely onto the bat.
> Smriti Mandhana has looked in great touch in this tournament except while facing off-spin. All her three dismissals thus far have been against off-spinners. She averages only 2.6 against this bowling type at a strike-rate of 61.5. Teams have started with pace generally, but to curb Smriti from spreading her wings, UP can give the new ball to Deepti Sharma right away.
> Continuing with Deepti, she has struggled to get going with the bat. With excellent batting pitches dished out this tournament, her scores read 12 (20) and 11 (16). Overall, in W-T20s this year, she averages 19.8 at a strike-rate of 99. All these innings have come at number five or lower. To use her better, maybe she can be promoted to open the innings with Healy. It can allow her to use the pace of the ball and just worry about clearing the in-field. Also, it will allow a left-right opening pair.
Royal Challengers Bangalore
Preeti Bose hasn’t clicked yet. She has conceded at 10.5 runs per over in three games and has picked only one picked. There is a like-for-like replacement available in Sahana Pawar. As mentioned abve, it will be interesting to see if RCB bring in Dane van Niekerk.
Smriti Mandhana ( c ), Sophie Devine, Ellyse Perry, Heather Knight, Richa Ghosh (wk), Kanika Ahuja, Shreyanka Patil, Poonam Khemnar, Megan Schutt/Dane van Niekerk, Renuka Singh, Preeti Bose/Sahana Pawar
Grace Harris for Shabnim Ismail seems to be the only possible change in the UP line-up
Alyssa Healy (c/wk), Shweta Sehrawat, Kiran Navgire, Tahlia McGrath, Deepti Sharma, Devika Vaidya, Simran Shaikh, Sophie Ecclestone, Shabnim Ismail/Grace Harris, Rajeshwari Gayakwad, Anjali Sarvani
*Dane van Niekerk and Grace Harris will bat up in the order if picked