Kings XI take aim at RCB’s batting problems


Big picture

Six losses on the trot, and plenty of them tally back to Royal Challengers Bangalore’s weak bowling units. But this season, it may be argued that their batting is the one causing bigger problems, misfiring through every stage of an IPL match. Statistics indicate they have scored at 7.3 per over in the Powerplay (seventh-best out of eight teams), 6.9 between overs 7 and 15 (seventh-best again) and 8.9 in the back end (dead last).

So, clearly, Kings XI Punjab have plenty of targets to aim at and a fine roster of bowlers to do it for them. Yet, two of their three losses in 2019 were the result of bowling mishaps. They fumbled a great opportunity against Mumbai earlier this week and, before that, allowed KKR to score 218. Strange things happen in the IPL and that trend is probably going to continue when these two teams meet on Saturday.

In the news

  • Kings XI batting coach S Sriram said Chris Gayle felt a twitch in his back during the game against Mumbai on Wednesday and that he needed to be monitored.

  • Mayank Agarwal missed Kings XI’s previous match with a hand injury. The 28-year old has already played a high-impact innings against one of the best bowling teams in the tournament and his return to the XI could prove a major boost.

  • RCB confirmed the signing of Dale Steyn on Friday evening. The South Africa fast bowler replaces the injured Nathan Coulter-Nile but will only be available for selection after April 15.

Previous meeting

Goes back to last year, when Kings XI were bowled out for 88 after fast bowler Umesh Yadav took out their two best batsmen – KL Rahul and Chris Gayle – inside five overs. RCB won with 10 wickets and 71 balls to spare.

Likely XIs

Kings XI Punjab: 1 KL Rahul (wk), 2 Mayank Agarwal, 3 Karun Nair, 4 David Miller/ Nicholas Pooran, 5 Sarfaraz Khan, 6 Mandeep Singh, 7 Sam Curran, 8 R Ashwin (capt), 9 Mujeeb Ur Rahman, 10 M Ashwin, 11 Mohammed Shami

Royal Challengers Bangalore: 1 Virat Kohli (capt), 2 Parthiv Patel (wk), 3 AB de Villiers, 4 Marcus Stoinis, 5 Moeen Ali, 6 Akshdeep Nath, 7 Pawan Negi, 8 Tim Southee, 9 Umesh Yadav, 10 Yuzvendra Chahal, 11 Navdeep Saini

Strategy punt

  • Spin to AB de Villiers. His strike-rate of 94 this season is among the lowest for any batsman over the first 10 balls of their innings. Also, three of his five dismissals in 2019 were the result of opposition teams forcing him to play spin as soon as he came to the crease. Kings XI will want to exploit this weakness, and may even draft M Ashwin into their XI to do so. De Villiers, since IPL 2017, has lost his wicket to legspin seven times, while making a modest 158 runs in 121 balls.

  • There is an equally strong case for Umesh Yadav’s inclusion in the RCB line-up. He matches up favourably against both Gayle and Rahul, conceding just about a run a ball, while also dismissing them a combined four times – Gayle thrice and Rahul once. In fact, Kings XI are Umesh’s favourite opposition – 26 wickets (personal best), 16 average (personal best), 7.13 economy (personal best)

Stats that matter

  • Since IPL 2015, the average first-innings score in a night game at Mohali is 173 and this is one of the rare venues where teams have more wins batting first (11) than second (5)

  • RCB desperately need a strong hand in the middle order, especially now that international retirement seems to have made de Villiers a bit rusty. In an ideal world, Colin de Grandhomme and Moeen Ali should have solved that problem considering they have been striking at 148 and 170 in the middle overs of a T20 match since 2015. Except they average only 19 when playing the shortest format in India and it is that trend that is on show a little too often.

  • Fair warning to fans of both teams. The Powerplay might be hard to watch. RCB have picked up only three wickets in this period across six different matches – that’s a bowling average of 98. Kings XI have been equally ineffective; they are the only team that leaks runs at a higher rate (8.6) than RCB (8.2). So yeah, might be useful to hide behind the couch and ask a friend to tell you when the first six overs are done.

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