The Indianpost

RCB shaping up well in time for Pune Warriors

Royal Challengers Bangalore left the M. Chinnaswamy Stadium last week lying second from bottom on the table, but after a splendid ten days on the road, the side returns occupying the third playoff spot.
The home side faces a Pune Warriors team that has endured a woeful four-match losing streak after victory in the opening two games, and will fancy its chances of claiming full points.

It is fair to assume that Chris Gayle’s savagery at the head of the innings, in the two wins since his arrival, will have transformed opponents’ perception of RCB — and perhaps as importantly — the team’s opinion of itself.

The Jamaican demonstrated no signs of jet-lag in his opening assignment, burying KKR as RCB strolled to a nine-wicket triumph.
Although Gayle made only 26 at Delhi, his early rapid scoring alongside Virat Kohli ensured that the run-chase, while appearing unnecessarily jittery, didn’t end a whole lot worse.

Kohli articulated, in his pre-match conference, that Gayle’s presence had made a difference.
“He takes the pressure off you when you’re batting at the other end,” he said. “You can just play normal cricket.”

Kohli himself has batted with remarkable ‘normalcy’, demonstrating with his performances the folly of batting him anywhere but at three.
With 227 runs at a strike rate of 128.24, the 22-year-old is RCB’s top-scorer in IPL-IV, and with AB de Villiers, will continue to be its most relied-upon batter.

Seamer Zaheer Khan looked below par after the World Cup, but put in his best performance thus far at Delhi. Little-known left-arm-spinner

Syed Mohammed too impressed with a fine spell at Eden Gardens, before holding his nerve to guide the side home.
Abhimanyu Mithun replaced Asad Pathan on that occasion, and although again expensive, took two wickets. It remains to be seen if he keeps his place for Friday’s encounter.

Ignored in the wake of the two results, however, should not be the home side’s failings.
Saurabh Tiwary went for a gargantuan sum at the auction — through no fault of his own — but has failed to contribute much.

He aggregates 81 runs from five innings, and RCB could do well with some of the big hitting he has shown himself to be capable of in previous seasons. The batting order, after the top four, appears veritably lightweight.

Pune Warriors will again rely on Yuvraj Singh to score the bulk of the runs. While Robin Uthappa and Jesse Ryder have impressed with their big hitting, the side will need them to bat longer if it is to post larger totals.

The skipper will have been heartened by the form of bowlers Alfonso Thomas, Murali Kartik, and Rahul Sharma, and will turn to the trio, desperately hoping to arrest his team’s slide down the table.

RCB’s last home match against Rajasthan Royals was washed out, and the threat of rain looms large again.
Should a similar scenario unfold, Pune, like the home side last time, will cheerfully accept the point.

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