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Regaining home advantage an immediate priority for RCB

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Big Picture

Prior to Royal Challengers Bangalore’s first game this season, captain Virat Kohli said this was ‘our most balanced side ever’. After the first round of games, it appeared Royal Challengers had the most unbalanced XI among all teams: a star-studded top four, followed by an untested middle order and a bowling attack lacking penetration. Kolkata Knight Riders chipped away at that top four and then romped to a four-wicket win on Sunday.

Back home, Royal Challengers need to achieve two things with immediate urgency: find their best team balance and regain home-ground advantage. On a relaid pitch that favoured spinners, Royal Challengers won only one game at the Chinnaswamy Stadium last season.

Kings XI Punjab, on the other hand, have laid out their template for this season: using spin at various points of an innings to stifle opponents and staying aggressive with the bat. It worked in their tournament opener, against Delhi Daredevils, but there are also holes to plug, such as Yuvraj Singh’s form: he laboured to a 22-ball 12.

Also, considering the relative ease with which fingerspinners are handled in modern-day T20 cricket – Kings XI have two in R Ashwin and Axar Patel – and with death-overs specialist Andrew Tye being taken for 38 runs in four overs, there aren’t many fall-back options. Against one of the better batting teams in the IPL and with the small dimensions of the Chinnawamy Stadium, the margin of error for Kings XI is little.

In the news

Aaron Finch has joined the Kings XI squad after his wedding, and could slot in the opening position in place of Mayank Agarwal. Chris Gayle and KL Rahul also return to the home ground of their former franchise.

The likely XIs

Royal Challengers Bangalore: 1 Brendon McCullum, 2 Parthiv Patel (wk), 3 Virat Kohli (capt.), 4 AB de Villiers, 5 Mandeep Singh, 6 Sarfraz Khan, 7 Washington Sundar, 8 Chris Woakes, 9 Tim Southee, 10 Umesh Yadav, 11 Yuzvendra Chahal

Kings XI Punjab: 1 KL Rahul (wk), 2 Aaron Finch, 3 Karun Nair, 4 Yuvraj Singh, 5 Manoj Tiwary, 6 Marcus Stoinis, 7 Axar Patel, 8 R Ashwin (capt.), 9 Andrew Tye, 10 Mujeeb Ur Rahman, 11 Mohit Sharma

Stats that matter

  • Compared to pace, Yuvraj Singh has struggled against spin in the IPL since 2015. He has scored 222 runs off 219 balls against the slow bowlers, at a strike rate of 101.4 and a dot-ball percentage of 50.2. Against pace, he has scored 526 runs off 369 balls, with a strike rate of 142.6.

  • The average score batting first at the M Chinnaswamy Stadium last year (142) was 32 runs below the average overall score (174) in the IPL at this ground.

  • AB de Villiers does not have a strike rate below 150 against any form of bowling. Virat Kohli has a strike rate under 125 against left-arm pace, right-arm offspin and left-arm orthdodox spin.

Strategy punt

With five specialist bowlers in their team, Kings XI have plenty of depth in their attack. There is, perhaps, a case for Kings XI to go against the chasing trend – the team batting second has won all the matches so far this season. Also, in 25 IPL games at the M Chinnaswamy Stadium since the start of the 2015 season, only two teams have elected to bat after winning the toss.

Kings XI could opt for a high-risk, high-reward choice of staying aggressive from the outset, like they successfully did last season at the chasing-friendly Wankhede Stadium, and bat Royal Challengers out of the game. If all they manage is a par score, they have the failsafe of their stronger suit in the clutch moments of the game.

Fantasy picks

Kohli v de Villiers? Like in the real world, you’d want your best fantasy batsman to play as many balls as possible, allowing you to maximise on points. Kohli will bat higher than de Villiers, and could face considerably more deliveries. Even though de Villiers’ strike-rate is higher, Kohli could you earn more runs, and therefore more points.

Quotes

“From what I see, he’s very calculated. He thinks about the game well. Every decision he makes, there’s a reason behind why he does that. So far it’s been pretty relaxed, pretty low-key, letting the guys do what they need to do.”
David Miller on R Ashwin’s captaincy

“We probably won’t expect playing against Chris (Gayle) tomorrow with the way they set the team up in the first game and with Aaron Finch coming back to the side. But if he does, if any team knows how good he is, it’s RCB with what he’s done for the team for a number of years.”
Royal Challengers coach Daniel Vettori on Chris Gayle



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Cricket

Recent Match Report – Sunrisers Hyderabad vs Kolkata Knight Riders, Indian Premier League, 38th Match

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Toss Sunrisers chose to bowl v Knight Riders

Sunrisers Hyderabad captain Kane Williamson decided to field first against Kolkata Knight Riders in the second day game of the season at the Rajiv Gandhi International Stadium in Uppal. The home side are unchanged, while the Knight Riders have made three changes.

They have dropped Robin Uthappa, Kuldeep Yadav and Prasidh Krishna, and replaced them with Rinku Singh, KC Cariappa and Prithvi Raj, the 21-year old left-arm pace bowler making his IPL debut.

It is a crucial game for the Knight Riders who have lost their last four games. Sunrisers, on the other hand, are coming off a win against the Super Kings that helped them break a three-match losing streak.

Sunrisers Hyderabad: David Warner, Jonny Bairstow (wk), Kane Williamson (capt), Vijay Shankar, Deepak Hooda, Yusuf Pathan, Rashid Khan, Bhuvneshwar Kumar, Sandeep Sharma, Shahbaz Nadeem, Khaleel Ahmed

Kolkata Knight Riders: Chris Lynn, Sunil Narine, Shubman Gill, Nitish Rana, Andre Russell, Dinesh Karthik (capt, wk), Rinku Singh, Piyush Chawla, KC Cariappa, Harry Gurney, Prithvi Raj



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Shadab Khan ruled out of England series with virus

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Legspinner Shadab Khan has been ruled out of the limited-overs series that Paksitan will play in England in the lead-up to the World Cup. Shadab is ill with a virus, though the exact nature of his illness is not known. A PCB release said “tests revealed a virus that will require treatment and rest for, at least, four weeks”.

Shadab is also part of Pakistan’s World Cup squad. Should he not be fit for the showpiece event, the PCB can make changes to the squad without seeking ICC permission till May 23.

The PCB said further investigations into Shadab’s illness will be done in England. “The Pakistan Cricket Board will now set up Shadab’s appointment with specialists in England to help him fully recover before Pakistan’s World Cup 2019 opener against the Windies on 31 May at Trent Bridge,” the PCB release said.

Shadab is the only specialist spinner in Pakistan’s 15 for the World Cup. The PCB is also waiting on the fitness of Mohammad Hafeez, who was included while still recovering from the finger injury he picked up during the Pakistan Super League. Hafeez is Pakistan’s other major spin option, alongside fellow allrounder Imad Wasim.

The series against England includes one T20I and five ODIs, between May 5 and 19. In addition to the World Cup 15, two more players will travel to England for this series: pacer Mohammad Amir and big-hitter Asif Ali. The PCB said it will name a replacement for Shadab for this series in “due course”.

Squad for the World Cup: Fakhar Zaman, Imam-ul-Haq, Abid Ali, Babar Azam, Shoaib Malik, Mohammad Hafeez (subject to fitness), Sarfaraz Ahmed (capt & wk), Shadab Khan, Imad Wasim, Hasan Ali, Faheem Ashraf, Shaheen Afridi, Junaid Khan, Mohammad Hasnain, Haris Sohail

Additions for England series: Mohammad Amir, Asif Ali



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Oman ride on Mohammad Nadeem’s sizzling form to overcome USA

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Oman 152 for 4 (Nadeem 55*, Suraj 50*, Ali Khan 4-27) beat USA 148 (Silva 33, Fayyaz 3-23) by six wickets

Allrounder Mohammad Nadeem‘s sizzling 2019 form helped Oman to a six-wicket win over USA at United CC. Coming into the tournament on the back of half-centuries in wins over Scotland and UAE, Nadeem made another unbeaten half-century in a 97-run unbroken stand with Suraj Kumar to repel USA after Ali Khan‘s four-wicket burst.

On a very sluggish outfield and up-and-down pitch in the first innings, USA were bowled out for 148 in just 38.5 overs as a sensational fast bowling effort from Bilal Khan, Kaleemullah and Fayyaz Butt set up what should have been a straightforward chase of a below-par target. The surface had begun to flatten out in the afternoon sun, but Ali took three wickets with the new ball to leave Oman reeling at 17 for 3.

Ali then returned in the 22nd over and struck with his very first ball of a new spell to get captain Zeeshan Maqsood fiddling an edge behind to make it 55 for 4. Curiously though, Ali only bowled two more overs, meaning he bowled two short of his available quota in one of several eyebrow-raising strategic moves on the day for USA, who also left out Nosthush Kenjige from the XI just a few matches after he had claimed 5 for 27 against Lancashire.

With Ali hidden from the attack, Nadeem and Kumar rebuilt the chase and soon became impossible to dislodge. Nadeem ended on 55 not out off 120 balls while Kumar brought up his half-century on the last ball of the match, sweeping Timil Patel for four through midwicket when scores were level.

Hong Kong 223 for 3 (Rath 114*, Atkinson 35, Dutta 2-30) beat Canada 222 for 8 (Jacobs 52*, Kinchit 4-34) by seven wickets

Hong Kong captain Anshy Rath helped construct a trio of half-century stands, including 90 for the first wicket with former captain Jamie Atkinson to chase down Canada’s 222 with 16 balls to spare at Affies Park.

It was Rath’s second ton for Hong Kong in the last eight months after compiling 102 in a win over UAE at the Asia Cup Qualifier in Malaysia. In addition to the stand with Atkinson, Rath added 50 with Kinchit Shah and another 63 with Ahsan Abbasi for the third wicket.

It was a superb all-round day for Kinchit, who bowled spin with the new ball and claimed the prized scalp of Ruvindu Gunasekera with his fourth ball of the day before coming back to take a hat-trick in the final over. With captain Davy Jacobs red-hot on 52 off 53 balls, he went ice cold at the non-striker’s end watching helplessly as Kinchit nabbed Saad bin Zafar, Dilon Heyliger and Nikhil Dutta with the last three balls of the innings to ensure Canada were defending a below part total.

Namibia 120 for 7 (Frylinck 23*, Amini 3-46) beat PNG 118 (Soper 36, Frylinck 3-16, Williams 3-25, Smit 3-34) by three wickets

Jan Frylinck played a vital role in a low-scoring thriller to help the tournament hosts off to a winning start against Papua New Guinea. Frylinck snared the prized pair of Tony Ura and captain Assad Vala inside the Powerplay and from there, PNG’s innings never gained any momentum. Chad Soper stretched the innings out with 36 from No. 6 before he was last person out in the 43rd for Frylinck’s third victim.

The early part of Namibia’s chase wasn’t much better than what PNG had produced. After legspinner Charles Amini ripped though the middle-order, Christi Viljoe was runout for 8 to leave Namibia 67 for 6 chasing a target of 119.

But Frylinck followed up his wickets with an instrumental 23 not out off of 20 balls to get Namibia over the line with a whopping 19.3 overs to spare. It means they hold a sizeable early advantage with the tournament tiebreaker of net run rate.





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