Kolkata: A rampaging Royal Challengers Bangalore will stand in the way of two-time former champions Kolkata Knight Riders' bid to make it to the play-offs in a mouthwatering Indian Premier League T20 cricket tournament encounter, in Kolkata on Monday.
With three matches remaining, both the teams are in the mix of things in a tight top-of the-table melee after their respective victories on Saturday.
But it's the second-placed KKR, who are ahead requiring just another win to get to the magic figure of 16 points which will take them in the last four of the cash-rich league.
Lying sixth with 10 points, the Royal Challengers on the other hand are left with the arduous task to win all their remainder matches of the league stage so as to keep play-off aspirations alive and also hope that some of the other results go their way.
Embracing to the challenge, RCB in their quest for a maiden silverware from nine seasons, posted a record 144-run win over Gujarat Lions at home on Saturday in the biggest entertaining display of the ninth season.
When Virat Kohli and AB de Villiers' bats are in full flow, it's for the world to sit back and enjoy the their masterclass, something that summed up the plight of a shell-shocked Gujarat Lions attack.
Records tumbled as Kohli (109 from 55 balls) and De Villiers (129 not out from 52) plundered the bowlers in a 229-run partnership of 96 balls to post the tournament's second highest total of 248/3, behind their own 263/5 against Pune Warriors in 2013.
'Orange Cap' holder Kohli scored his third century in the ongoing IPL to take his tally to 677 runs at 75.22 in 11 outings, while De Villiers sat second behind him in this year's tally with 538 at a strike rate of 171.88.
Their brutal batting will certainly threaten Gautam Gambhir's spin ploy and the KKR skipper will especially look to target the South African on a turning wicket.
Considered the most versatile batsman of the world cricket, De Villiers was in a league of his own his batting prowess was unmatched.
If ABD's shot selection was audacious, Kohli's was pure class as he matched the celebrated South African stroke-for-stroke, especially when he hit top gear in going from 50 to 100 in just 14 balls.
De Villiers is at his furious best when he gets going, but in skipper Kohli RCB has got a master finisher and someone who hates to get out even in most pressure-cooked situation.
Possessing a solid technique that fetches him effortless runs without relying on slugfest, Kohli also relishes the spin challenge as he threatens to derail Gambhir's plans.
The X-factor in the match will be KKR's bowling versus RCB's batting batting which can seal the issue.
KKR's spin troika of Sunil Narine, Shakib Al Hasan and Piyush Chawla revelled in the conditions yesterday restricting Pune Supergiants to 103/6 in 17.4 overs when rain halted play that set up their eight-wicket win via Duckworth-Lewis method.
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A fit-again Narine did not take any wicket but was most impressive giving away just 10 runs from his 3.4 overs with 14 dot balls including 10 against skipper MS Dhoni who scored eight not out from 22 balls that set up their win.
Narine's return to form on a vicious turning Eden wicket will bolster Gambhir's hopes as they will hope to pin down the likes of De Villiers and Chris Gayle who's in the midst of a miserable run with just 19 runs from five innings.
But it's a known fact that if Gayle comes to party then there's only one winner and it will be interesting to see how he fares against his fellow Jamaican Andre Russell in purple colours.
Russell has been a handy all-rounder for KKR giving regular breakthroughs with his pace bowling and also gives his team the luxury of a power-hitter down the order.
His 24-ball-39 along set the tone before Yusuf Pathan exploded to form this season with a match-winning 60 not out from 29 balls to post a five-wicket win over RCB in the first leg.
Yusuf's has silenced his critics with two half-centuries this season and yesterday too his smacking against R Ashwin en route to a 18-ball-37 not out knocked off the 66-run chase with four overs to spare via D/L method.
After surviving a close LBW appeal, Yusuf blasted Ashwin for two sixes and two fours for 22 runs in an over to end hopes of a close finish and KKR will pray that Yusuf continues to the good show with RCB low on bowling ammunition.
Kohli's team often looked lopsided with their much maligned bowling attack as barring their wrist spinner Yuzvendra Chahal none of their bowler has able to create any impression.
Kohli may also rethink to bolster their spin attack with the likes of left-arm spinner Iqbal Abdulla and off-break bowler Parvez Rasool giving him the options to make use of the conditions.
Their bowling attack has looked severely depleted with the pace duo of Adam Milne, Mitchell Starc along with leg-spinner Samuel Badree ruled out because of injuries.
In their absence, the workload has fallen back on Shane Watson and Chris Jordan in the pace department and Chahal in the spin as their attack will hope that their top-heavy batting gives them a score to defend.
Kolkata Knight Riders: Gautam Gambhir (captain), Robin Uthappa, Manish Pandey, Yusuf Pathan, Suryakumar Yadav, Shakib Al Hasan, Andre Russell, Piyush Chawla, Sunil Narine, Ankit Rajpoot, Morne Morkel, Chris Lynn, Colin Munro, Brad Hogg, Shaun Tait, Jason Holder, Umesh Yadav, Sheldon Jackson, Jaydev Unadkat and Rajagopal Sathish.
Royal Challengers Bangalore: Virat Kohli (captain), Chris Gayle, AB de Villiers, Shane Watson, Lokesh Rahul, Sachin Baby, Stuart Binny, Chris Jordan, Sreenath Aravind, Varun Aaron, Yuzvendra Chahal, Travis Head, Chris Jordan, Kane Richardson, David Wiese, Tabraiz Shamsi, Abu Nechim, Praveen Dubey, Iqbal Abdulla, Kedar Jadhav, Akshay Karnewar, Sarfaraz Khan, Vikramjeet Malik, Mandeep Singh, Parvez Rasool, Harshal Patel and Vikas Tokas.
Published Date: May 16, 2016 18:18 PM | Updated Date: May 16, 2016 18:19 PM