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RCB bank on home advantage in bid to stay alive – WSAIGO Sports
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Cricket

RCB bank on home advantage in bid to stay alive

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Big Picture

For the first time this season, Royal Challengers Bangalore have picked up wins in successive matches, both away from home. Now with their campaign on the line, they return to home comforts to take on table-toppers Sunrisers Hyderabad. Irrespective of how other results pan out, wins in both their matches is non-negotiable for RCB, although mathematical possibilities could see them miraculously enter the playoffs even with just one win. That’s a route they wouldn’t want to take, however.

Each of their three recent wins, against Mumbai Indians, Delhi Daredevils and Kings XI Punjab, have been a result of stupendous bowling performances, led superbly by Umesh Yadav. Four of their wins overall have come while chasing, with either AB de Villiers making a half-century or Virat Kohli steering them through. Now against the best bowling attack of the tournament, they will need more players to up their game.

RCB concede 12.17 per over in the death overs, the highest by a team this season. Their ability to chase notwithstanding, a strong finish with the ball is mandatory, if they are to chase, against an attack that has a history of defending small targets. Sunrisers are already assured of a top-two finish. This means they could look at giving a few of their back-up players an opportunity without hampering the team’s balance. It’s also as good an opportunity as any for the misfiring Manish Pandey to hit form at the ground he calls home.

In the news

Wriddhiman Saha is recovering from a shoulder injury and should slot back in if the team management deems his recovery satisfactory. This could mean a return to the bench for Shreevats Goswami.

Previous meeting

Sunrisers’ bowling might came to their rescue. They huffed and puffed to 146 after losing 7 for 34, but outstanding death bowling – they gave away just 19 off their last three overs – helped pull off a coup, with RCB falling five short.

Likely XIs

Royal Challengers Bangalore 1 Virat Kohli (capt), 2 Parthiv Patel (wk), 3 Moeen Ali, 4 AB de Villiers, 5 Mandeep Singh, 6 Sarfaraz Khan, 7 Colin de Grandhomme, 8 Tim Southee, 9 Umesh Yadav, 10 Mohammed Siraj, 11 Yuzvendra Chahal

Sunrisers Hyderabad 1 Shikhar Dhawan, 2 Alex Hales, 3 Kane Williamson (capt), 4 Manish Pandey, 5 Deepak Hooda, 6 Shakib Al Hasan, 7 Shreevats Goswami/Wriddhiman Saha (wk), 8 Rashid Khan, 9 Bhuvneshwar Kumar, 10 Siddarth Kaul, 11 Sandeep Sharma

Strategic punt

  • Kohli has scored 30 or more in four out of five RCB wins this season. Against Sunrisers, he’s made 473 at 59.1 and a strike rate of 145.1, so getting him out early is paramount. If you’re Sunrisers, your two best men for the job are Rashid Khan and Sandeep Sharma. The RCB captain has stuttered against legspin this season, managing just 75 runs from 65 balls and losing his wicket three times in eight innings. And while he has had his share of success against Sandeep, whom he has slapped for 56 runs in 33 balls, Kohli has fallen to him five times in eight innings.

  • RCB can look to counter the Alex Hales threat by bringing on his England teammate Moeen Ali. Hales has scored at a run a ball off the 17 balls he has faced from Moeen and perished to him twice in three innings. Hales, in fact, has struggled against all kinds of spin bowlers this season. He has 22 runs off the 31 balls he has faced from them and perished to them twice in three innings.

Stats that matter

  • RCB have won three of the last five meetings between these two sides at this venue. And the players to have won it for them (no prizes for guessing): de Villiers twice and Kohli once.

  • Since Sunrisers came into existence, RCB have never held a superior head-to-head record against them. While they were even in the first three seasons with one victory each, Sunrisers have bettered RCB in each of the last three seasons: 2-1 in 2016, and 1-0 in 2017 and 2018.

  • De Villiers feasts on this Sunrisers bowling attack. None of Sunrisers’ main bowlers has a favourable record against de Villiers. Overall, he has plundered 380 runs off the 219 balls he has faced from them, averaging 42.2 and striking at 173.5.

  • Several big names are approaching important milestones. Kohli needs 68 runs to notch up 5000 career IPL runs, while Shikhar Dhawan is 70 away from 4000 and Kane Williamson needs 45 to hit 1000.

Fantasy pick

Dhawan is one of the reasons Sunrisers haven’t felt the absence of David Warner. He is their second-highest run-scorer and is now riding on successive half-centuries. Moreover, his record at the Chinnaswamy makes him a favourable pick: 246 runs in eight T20 innings at an average of 49.2 and a best of 73 not out.

Sandeep has had an outstanding IPL. His economy rate of 5.83 is the best this season and goes alongside eight wickets at 22.62. A proven, consistent performer who doesn’t really eat into your purse. What else do you need?



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Thisara Perera’s all-round heroics down Dhaka Dynamites

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Comilla Victorians 153 for 8 (Shamsur 48, Tamim 34, Shakib 3-24) beat Dhaka Dynamites 146 for 9 (Russell 46, Thisara 3-14, Afridi 2-18) by seven runs

How the game played out

Comilla Victorians pulled out a sloppy, see-saw affair by seven runs thanks to the all-round heroics of Thisara Perera. Though the final margin might indicate that the game went down to the wire, Victorians actually sealed it quite comfortably in the final three overs when the Dhaka Dynamites tail was left stranded following the dismissal of captain Shakib Al Hasan.

The match was far from a crisp contest, with a series of missed chances on both sides that served to keep it interesting. Deep square leg and deep midwicket were high-traffic areas throughout the day and the Victorians’ ability to seize more chances on the boundary paid off in the end.

Turning points

  • With Liam Dawson struggling to get bat on ball at one end, the red-hot Thisara Perera clattered three sixes in his 26 off 12 balls before he was run out in the final over in a mix-up trying to steal a bye.

  • Thisara removed a rampaging Andre Russell for 46 in the 15th over to defuse the Dynamites’ chase with a slower ball pulled to deep midwicket.

  • With 36 needed off 25 balls and with five wickets in hand, Shakib pulled a full toss from Shahid Afridi straight to deep midwicket.

  • Thisara followed up Shakib’s dismissal with two more via the short ball in the 17th, effectively snuffing out the Dynamites chances

Star of the day

Thisara Perera not only continued to be the Victorians’ sensational spark plug at the end of the innings with the bat, but silenced the Dynamites at the death. Not only did he take three crucial wickets, but he conceded just a single in the 19th over, leaving 19 runs to get off the last six balls, which wound up being too tough for the tail.

The big miss

Shakib got an absolute meatball from Afridi that should have been hit out of the ground. He stood motionless at the wicket once he realised he didn’t get the elevation to clear the man on the boundary and even though the required run rate was just nine per over for the last four, Dynamites’ last recognised batsman was gone to turn Dynamites from favorites to underdogs.

Where the teams stand

Victorians joined Dynamites on 10 points at the top of the table in a three-way tie for first place with Chittagong Vikings, but the Vikings have two games in hand.



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Dhoni, Dhawan should have played domestic cricket before Australia ODIs – Gambhir

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Gautam Gambhir believes that the likes of MS Dhoni and Shikhar Dhawan should have been asked to play first-class cricket before joining the Indian team for the ODI series in Australia, so that they could have hit the ground running. He was also sceptical about Rishabh Pant’s chances of making it to the World Cup squad, and said playing in the IPL before the World Cup could be a blessing in disguise for India’s players. Gambhir was speaking at an event in Bangalore. Excerpts:

On playing domestic cricket before the Australia ODIs:

I was a little disappointed because some of the guys should have played first-class cricket. The selectors should have pushed them to play first-class cricket. Because it’s a World Cup year, you’ve got to be in prime form. Whether it was MS Dhoni, Shikhar Dhawan, Ambati Rayudu (Rayudu retired from first-class cricket earlier this season)… all those guys who went to Australia.

Why do you skip it? Because ultimately you will get confidence by scoring runs, not by hitting the nets. You can’t be thinking, ‘I’m going to come back into form just by playing international cricket.’ The only way everyone has done it is by playing domestic cricket and scoring runs. It’s a World Cup year, so I think the selectors should have made everyone play domestic cricket.

Does Rishabh Pant have a place in the ODI squad?

I don’t think so. They’ve got MS Dhoni and Dinesh Karthik. He can wait for his opportunity. Obviously he has done well in Test cricket. He’s doing all the right things. But if you’ve got Dhoni, who got [the] Man-of-the-Series award, he deserves to be there now. And it’s so close to the World Cup, you need someone like Dhoni. Karthik has been in decent form as well over the last four-five months. The good thing is, Rishabh is keeping them on their toes as well, which is always a good sign for Indian cricket, that youngsters are pushing the seniors.

On players potentially skipping the IPL to rest before the World Cup:

I think playing the IPL is a fabulous opportunity for most of those guys to be in peak form. Because you’re only bowling four overs. It’s not like there is a lot of physical burden on you. Plus you’re going to be bowling in difficult conditions as well, whether in the first six overs or the last four. So that will keep you in good shape. You don’t suddenly miss the IPL and say ‘I’ll go to the World Cup fresh and raring to go.’ That is only from the physical point of view, but from the skill point of view, to be at the top of your game, you’ve got to be playing a tournament like the IPL. And if you do well at the IPL, it’s going to keep you in very good stead in the World Cup. Imagine Jasprit Bumrah and Bhuvneshwar Kumar bowling well in the death overs, how confident they would be going into the World Cup. Or some of the middle-order batters finishing the game for their franchise, they’ll go to the World Cup thinking, ‘We can finish from any situation’. So I think the IPL can be a blessing in disguise. I think MS Dhoni made a very good point when he said that it’s going to be a great opportunity for most of the players to be in prime form from the skill point of view.

On how Hardik Pandya and KL Rahul’s potential absence could affect the team:

One person does not change anything. The core still remains the same. KL Rahul wasn’t even there in the playing XI because we had Rayudu who did fabulously well against West Indies, so he deserved a chance before Rahul in the one-day format. Yes Hardik Pandya [might have made a difference], but you’ve replaced him with Ravindra Jadeja, who again is an allrounder. We only have, what, ten ODIs left before the World Cup? So we should maintain consistency and give people who are going to play the first game of the World Cup these ten games and see how they deliver.

On the journey from sharing his Player-of-the-Match Award with Virat Kohli when the latter made his first ODI hundred, to Kohli sweeping all the ICC awards:

It’s his hard work. I shared it because it was his first international hundred. I wanted to make him feel special because it was his first international hundred. Irrespective of how many you get, I remember my first international hundred till now, even when I’m retired. That always stays close to your heart, it’s a feeling that can never be replaced, even if you get 100 international hundreds, or how many ever. The first is always special, your debut is always special. Whenever he sees that trophy he should remember that. And whatever he’s achieved is all because of his hard work. I hope he continues this form because it’s going to be an important year for Indian cricket.

On what makes Jasprit Bumrah difficult to pick:

People ask me this about Sunil Narine as well, what made him so difficult to pick – and I just said, ‘quality’. Mystery can be solved over a period of time, but he had the quality. People can keep talking about Bumrah’s action, but he’s just a quality bowler. The action can only help you in one format, probably T20 where you have to go after the bowling. But he’s been so successful in Test cricket. He’s probably the best bowler in the world right now in all three formats.

On which spinners India should look at for the World Cup:

I think both wristspinners have done a fabulous job for Indian cricket over the last one year. But I still feel that R Ashwin is someone we should look at. A quality spinner is a quality spinner, irrespective of whether you’re a wristspinner or a fingerspinner. Look at what Nathan Lyon has done in the Test series. He’s probably the best offspinner in the world and he’s a fingerspinner. So I feel we should not differentiate that there’s a wristspinner so there’s no space for a finger spinner. Someone like Ashwin, we should always consider. Looking at the conditions in England during that time of the year, the wickets could be dry and a fingerspinner could have an important role.



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Hasan Ali’s counterattacking fifty hauls Pakistan to 203

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Pakistan 203 (Hasan 59, Sarfraz 41, Phehlukwayo 4-22, Shamsi 3-56) v South Africa

Only a check of the schedule would tell you it’s an ODI, much less that it’s being played at Kingsmead. The first innings today took Pakistan back to the Test series, where the short ball was an unconquerable demon, and Duanne Olivier and Kagiso Rabada invincible tormentors. A series of dismissals when the ball was pitched short saw Pakistan hampered in their innings early on, before an inspired performance from Tabraiz Shamsi, deputising for Imran Tahir, helped reduce Pakistan to 112 for 8. The left-arm wristspinner, fighting for a World Cup spot, ended up among the better bowlers, taking three wickets, and at one point appeared to have set up his side for a seemingly straightforward chase.

It required the most delightful joie de vivre sort of innings from Hasan Ali – a character who matches that description to the fullest – to keep Pakistan in the contest. They were 59 of the most uncomplicated runs that saw Pakistan recover to 203. Hasan was responsible for 59 of the 90 runs which came in a ninth-wicket partnership with Sarfraz Ahmed, and was last man dismissed after Andile Phehlukwayo returned to remove both Sarfraz and Hasan in the 46th over.

Hasan’s innings remained in spirit the typical knock of a have-a-go hero, but the sweet timing of the strikes against legitimately world-class bowling gave it the air of conventional classiness you might not expect from Hasan. At any rate, it gave Pakistan more than a fighting chance. It was only thanks to career-best figures from Phehlukwayo that it wasn’t even more, his 4 for 22 including those vital last two wickets that finally put paid to Pakistan’s innings.

Faf du Plessis had won the toss again, this time deciding to let Pakistan bat first after much criticism around his side’s failure to pace their innings well. Pace was never a problem for his fast bowlers, though, who accounted for Pakistan’s top four in the first hour with deliveries that grew big on the batsmen. Imam-ul-Haq mistiming a pull shot off a Rabada ball was a harbinger for what was to come, and Babar Azam was dismissed cheaply much the same way. Then came the now-customary Fakhar Zaman dismissal off a short ball, when Olivier got one to rise towards his grille, the batsman fending it off to gully.

The middle overs might have been an opportunity for rebuilding, but Shamsi had other ideas. Brought in to replace Tahir, he had big boots to fill, and he acted like it. The first ball of his spell drew an edge from Malik that first slip would have pouched had one been placed, and off his fourth delivery, he snared fellow spinner Shadab Khan. It wasn’t long before debutant Hussain Talat, curiously promoted ahead of Sarfraz, fell to perhaps the ball of the innings. An exquisite stock ball beat Talat’s outside edge, drawing him out of his crease while Heinrich Klaasen deftly removed the bails.

Sarfraz, who has been shy of batting too high up the order since becoming captain, finally came in at No. 8. While Pakistan fans might have hoped for a valuable partnership with Shoaib Malik to rescue the side, injudicious shot selection from Malik soon left Pakistan eight down. It was after that that Pakistan’s finest moments in the innings were to arrive, thanks to a refreshingly straightforward innings from Hasan. He threw off the shackles, attacked every bowler he faced, seamer or spinner, his 59 coming off just 45 balls. It included five fours and three sixes, taking Pakistan past 200 where once they looked like they might struggle to reach 125.

South Africa still may be expected to chase this; 203 is, after all, well below par. But where once this looked like it might be headed for an early finish, there may now be a contest to be enjoyed after all.



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