(MENAFN- Khaleej Times)
Published: Wed 25 May 2022, 12:13 AM
Virat Kohli's belated return to form has been a shot in the arm for Royal Challengers Bangalore going into the playoffs.
Bangalore, the perennial underachievers who are chasing their first title, hardly looked the part for most of the league phase. For eight weeks of the league phase, they had a rickety, uncertain ride until, suddenly, things started falling in place last week.
The big issue confronting RCB was Kohli's miserable form. Probably the only reason he wasn't benched was that he was turning out to be a lucky mascot for the team!
Then, against table-toppers Gujarat Titans, Kohli magically seemed to rediscover his best touch, scoring a match-winning 73. RCB's fate still hinged on how Delhi fared against Mumbai, but the Capitals blew away a splendid opportunity after Rishabh Pant's boo-boos on the field, allowing Bangalore to sneak in.
While RCB's entry into the last was fortuitous, they could now be a tough obstacle for Lucknow Super Giants to overcome at the Eden Gardens in Kolkata.
And it's Kohli who becomes a central figure in tonight's Eliminator.
The match will likely be decided by how the openers of both teams fare in the Powerplay. KL Rahul and Quinton de Kock have been magnificent all through. RCB had a bumpy ride essentially because Kohli was a non-performing asset. The match against Titans showed how dramatically the equation could change if he fires.
Kohli and Faf du Plessis put on 115 for the first wicket which stunned the Titans, and then Glenn Maxwell came out to deliver the finishing touches with a blistering 18-ball 40.
RCB barely needed the services of Dinesh Karthik who had bailed them out several times earlier.
RCB need the top order to click as the batting otherwise does not have the heft that Lucknow has. In bowling too, LSG have more depth and variety.
LSG's problem could stem from a slump of sorts in self-belief. In their last few games, the victories came squeakily, the defeats were by big margins. Though they secured a place in the last 4 after a nail-biting win over the Kolkata Knight Riders, LSG couldn't finish in the top 2.
Now, it's a do-or-die situation for both LSG and RCB in the Eliminator tonight.
Ability of Josh Hazlewood (at the start) and Harshal Patel (slog) overs to put batsmen under pressure, take wickets, control runs. Leg-spinner Wanindu Hasaranga's ability to pick up wickets in the middle overs and turn the match around. Explosive finisher in Dinesh Karthik with the best strike rate in the tournament. Glenn Maxwell shining with ball and bat.
Devastating opening pair in KL Rahul-Quinton de Kock, the best among all teams seen this season. Deep batting line-up with all-rounders Krunal Pandya, Marcus Stoinis and Jason Holder in the ranks. Skilful young fast bowlers Avesh Khan (right-arm) and Mohsin Khan (left-arm) who have helped the team overcome tight situations.
Despite Kohli coming good, the batting's still iffy and heavily dependent on Faf and Karthik. Team RCB also lack a quality spinner to support Hasaranga. Siraj's failures saw him benched, reducing an experienced hand in the pace department which could hurt.
All-rounders Holder and Stoinis haven't been able to pull their weight, with bat or ball, in the past few games. Lead spinner Ravi Bishnoi has been below par.
Key Contests: Hazlewood v Rahul-de Kock, Bishnoi v Maxwell
X Factor: Virat Kohli
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