Resurgent Royal Challengers face tough task against MI juggernaut
Royal Challengers Bangalore will have to pull out all stops to prevent the Mumbai Indians juggernaut from rolling them over in what promises to be a high-octane IPL cricket clash at the Wankhede Stadium here on Sunday.
MI are on a splendid winning spree, clinching five wins in as many games to hold the all-important momentum ahead of their contest against RCB, who are seeking a sixth straight win that would propel them towards the play-off stage.
The brilliant show against Chennai Super Kings in the latter's bastion -- Chidambaram Stadium -- Friday night would certainly galvanise MI to produce another good performance against RCB who have the advantage of a well-earned rest before the difficult match.
That the brilliant six-wicket win over CSK in the latter's den came without the presence of their key death bowler Lasith Malinga, who was unable to even go to Chennai because of political reasons, is a feather in MI's well-adorned cap.
With the Sri Lankan sling-arm bowler available to reclaim his spot in the MI line-up, gangling South African pacer Marchant de Lange, who filled in the breach and played his first game, is expected to be benched.
MI's impressive display has come on the backs of quite a few match-winners like captain Rohit Sharma, big-hitting Kieron Pollard, Malinga and Harbhajan Singh.
A lot many players have been putting their shoulders to the MI's pace-gathering process in the last few games which is a very important factor in their fabulous run after tasting four straight defeats in their first four games.
The openers -- Lendl Simmons and Parthiv Patel -- have started firing and down the order while Ambati Rayudu has been a source of inspiration whether setting a total or chasing an imposing one with his calm demeanour and ability to clear the rope.
In bowling, after the injury to Corey Anderson, his New Zealand compatriot Mitchell McClenaghan has stepped in to be counted along with young left-arm spinner Jagadeesha Suchith.
And when the chips were down with MI needing 30 from the last two overs last night, Hardik Pandya took up the gauntlet in superb fashion to smash Super Kings’ left-arm spinner Pawan Negi for four sixes in the penultimate over to turn the tables.
Currently lying fourth in the table a victory over RCB, which would be their 10th from 17 games, would provide a huge boost to MI’s play-off chances.
However, MI face a formidable adversary in RCB, especially with the looming danger of Mitchell Starc to be confronted by their batsmen at the beginning and at the end of their innings.
The lanky left-arm pace bowler, who has claimed 16 wickets in just seven IPL games this season, has been a major factor in RCB rebounding into play-off contention after an inconsistent initial run, with his ability to take wickets and strangle the opposition.
Two other important cogs in their bowling wheel have been South Africa’s David Wiese (10 wickets) and Haryana leg spinner Yuzvendra Chahal (13 wickets).
Sreenath Aravind’s four-wicket haul in his first game during RCB’s comprehensive win over Kings XI Punjab was a timely boost to the visitors’ dwindling Indian bowling stock which includes the pacy, but expensive, Varun Aaron.
In batting, RCB’s main run-makers are the big three -- West Indian master blaster Chris Gayle, aggressive captain Virat Kohli and South African wizard A B de Villiers.