Gujarat Lions v Royal Challengers Bangalore
Wednesday May 25, 12:30am
Regular season victors Gujarat Lions will travel to Bangalore to take on the red-hot RCB in Tuesday night’s first qualifier with the winner progressing straight to the final.
In their first season in the IPL the Lions got off to an incredible start, winning six of their first seven games, before overcoming a mid-season blip to claim top spot on the ladder with three wins in their last four.
Like the majority of teams in the competition Gujurat have been most effective when chasing, claiming victory in eight out of the ten matches when they have batted second.
Conversely in their four matches batting first the only time they tasted success was in a narrow one-run win over the Delhi Daredevils where they somehow defended 18 off the last two overs.
The Lions’ batting has been highlighted by Aaron Finch – playing largely in an unfamiliar middle-order role – and captain Suresh Raina who between them have scored 736 runs at an average of 36.80 and strike-rate in excess of 130.
Unheralded local pace duo Praveen Kumar and Dhawal Kulkarni have led the bowling attack from the front and whilst often expensive, star all-rounder Dwyane Bravo is their top wicket-taker with 15.
If they are to go all the way in their first season Gujarat may need to get a bit more out of explosive opening batsman Brendon McCullum who has contributed only one half-century in 14 innings throughout the tournament.
Royal Challengers Bangalore
While their opponents won six of their first seven, RCB could only register two wins from their opening seven encounters and the pre-tournament favourites were staring down the barrel of an early exit.
However six victories from their final seven games has seen them not just qualify for the finals but finish second on the ladder which gives them two bites at the cherry and has seen them restored as favourites to take out their first ever IPL title.
The turn-around has been triggered by both relentless violence with the bat and improved economy with the ball. In regards to the latter, leg-spinner Yuzvendra Chahal has really hit his straps, claiming 14 wickets at an average of 14.14 and economy rate of 7.33 in RCB’s last seven games.
The Royal Challengers have one of the most feared batting line-ups in the history of domestic T20 cricket, however it is one man who has done the majority of the damage with captain Virat Kohli enjoying arguably the most fruitful tournament of anyone in the history of the IPL.
In 14 innings Kohli has struck four centuries and six fifties, racking up 919 runs at a phenomenal average of 91.90 and damaging strike-rate of 152.40. Kohli has been ably supported by AB de Villiers and Lokesh Rahul, both of whom are averaging in excess of 50, however RCB’s chances of a maiden trophy will rest largely on the broad shoulders of their irrepressible skipper.
M Chinnaswamy Stadium
Bangalore’s M Chinnaswamy Stadium has long been known for producing high-scoring matches and this season has been no different.
The average first innings score has been a monumental 5/201 and yet the side batting second has still won four out of the seven matches played there during the competition.
Kohli’s form at his home ground has been particularly imperious with scores of 75, 79, 52, 108*, 7, 109 and 113.
- Gujarat have won eight of ten matches when batting second.
- However Gujarat have won only one of four matches when batting first.
- Bangalore have won six of their last seven matches.
- Bangalore have won three out of four matches when batting second.
- Virat Kohli has top-scored for Bangalore in seven of 14 matches this season, including four out of seven at home.
Despite finishing on top of the table Gujarat are clear underdogs with the in-form RCB favourites to win at home and progress to their third IPL final.
There’s no doubt that on current form the Royal Challengers deserve favouritism, however their price is too short to back given their over-reliance on one player and the influence of the toss which is likely to be significant.
Both sides have an excellent record when chasing and the ground tends to favour those batting second too, so whoever wins the toss will likely elect to field first and this will alter the match odds fairly significantly which leaves little room for getting involved pre-match.
Instead we will look to the top batsman market for some value and here it is hard to ignore the claims of Virat Kohli. Kohli’s form has been sublime not just throughout the IPL but going back as far as the World T20 (where he top-scored for India in three out of five games) and the limited-overs tour of Australia.
In this tournament alone Kohli has top-scored for RCB on seven out of 14 occasions, including four out of seven at the M Chinnaswamy. He is the competition’s leading run-scorer by an incredible 261 runs, scoring 50 or more in 10 out of 14 innings.
While Kohli has plenty of competition from the likes of de Villiers, Chris Gayle and Shane Watson, only the South African has shown any signs of matching it with the skipper and as a noted big-game player we see no reason not to be with the form player of the competition so will happily back Kohli to top-score for RCB again here.