Virat Kohli wore a big smile when he got to his fifty against the Rajasthan Royals on Saturday. That expression, especially after ending a string of low scores, came as a pleasant surprise to his fans, who have become used to his intense, loud celebrations. In fact, Kohli has looked happier, and calmer, since the start of IPL 2020. A couple of weeks ago, his Royal Challengers Bangalore team-mate Parthiv Patel told India Today that he has “never seen him [Kohli] smile so much”.
One wonders if Kohli’s new, relaxed persona has played a part in the Royal Challengers winning three of their first four games of the season. Or it may be the other way round – Kohli is at peace because the team is doing well. Either way, the fact is after their latest win, the Royal Challengers were at the top of the points table, something of a rarity in recent years.
Their wins have come courtesy an amalgamation of youth and experience. Devdutt Padikkal has been prolific with the bat, Washington Sundar has bowled tightly in the powerplay, while AB de Villiers, Aaron Finch and Kohli have reeled off a half-century each. Yuzvendra Chahal and Navdeep Saini, meanwhile, have done full justice to their roles with the ball in the middle overs and at the death respectively.
The Royal Challengers’ stay at the top, though, lasted only a few hours as the Delhi Capitals overtook them by defeating the Kolkata Knight Riders on the same day. Although the Capitals too might be dethroned by the time they face the Royal Challengers on Monday, there is no doubt about their quality as a team.
The Capitals are one of the more balanced sides in the tournament with most of their players in good nick. Their captain Shreyas Iyer scored a swashbuckling 88 not out against the Knight Riders, Prithvi Shaw has two fifties to his name, and Shikhar Dhawan has shown signs of form. In the bowling department, Kagiso Rabada, Anrich Nortje and Amit Mishra have not only been among the wickets but also have their economies under eight. R Ashwin’s return from injury makes the Capitals’ attack one of the best in the tournament, which means the Royal Challengers’ batsmen will have their task cut out.
In the news
Chris Morris has recovered from his side strain and could replace Adam Zampa in the playing XI. Zampa has picked up only one wicket in two games at an economy rate of 11.42. Moreover, the Capitals have three left-hand batsmen in their top six, which may go against Zampa. Morris, on the other hand, has an excellent death economy rate of 8.5 in the IPL and can pair up with Saini. Also, he is a handy lower-order batsman.
Royal Challengers Bangalore: 1 Devdutt Padikkal, 2 Aaron Finch, 3 Virat Kohli (capt), 4 AB de Villiers (wk), 5 Gurkeerat Singh, 6 Shivam Dube, 7 Isuru Udana, 8 Washington Sundar, 9 Chris Morris, 10 Navdeep Saini, 11 Yuzvendra Chahal
Delhi Capitals: 1 Prithvi Shaw, 2 Shikhar Dhawan, 3 Shreyas Iyer (capt), 4 Rishabh Pant (wk), 5 Shimron Hetmyer, 6 Marcus Stoinis, 7 Harshal Patel, 8 R Ashwin, 9 Kagiso Rabada, 10 Amit Mishra, 11 Anrich Nortje
In Dubai so far (before the Kings XI Punjab vs Chennai Super Kings game), all the matches in this IPL have been won by the team batting first. Both the Capitals (three in three) and the Royal Challengers (two in two) are also yet to lose a game when batting first this season. So whoever wins the toss might look to bat first.
Expect the Royal Challengers to bowl Chahal against Dhawan and Shaw. The legspinner has dismissed Dhawan three times in T20s while giving away only 52 runs off 48 balls. Shaw averages only 13.5 against legspin in T20s and has been dismissed by a legspinner eight times in 13 innings.
Rabada has dismissed Kohli twice in T20s while giving away only 24 runs off 24 balls. de Villiers’ nemesis has been Ashwin, who has got him out five times while conceding only 88 off 86 balls. But it can get trickier if both Kohli and de Villiers are together in the middle because de Villiers has taken Rabada for 21 off ten (two dismissals) and Kohli has looted 154 off 116 against Ashwin without being dismissed.
Stats that matter
Since 2011, the Capitals have won only three out of the 17 games against the Royal Challengers in the IPL. Two of those wins, though, came last season.
Since 2018, among those who have scored at least 300 runs in the IPL, only two average more than 45 and have a strike rate over 160 – de Villiers and Pant. In this period, the two also have the best strike rate at the death (minimum 100 runs in overs 16 to 20).
Padikkal is the only batsman to hit three fifties in his first four IPL innings.
In IPL 2020, the Royal Challengers have the best run rate (8.4) in the powerplay, while the Capitals have the poorest (6.3). Things are exactly opposite in the middle overs where the Capitals have the best scoring rate (8.9) and the Royal Challengers the poorest (6.9).
In the first seven games in Dubai this IPL, teams winning the toss opted to field on six occasions. None of those teams went on to win the match.
The average first-innings total in Dubai this IPL has been 177.
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