RCB are Gayle & hearty
The opener will boost Bangalore's chances against the Kochi Tuskers. Rohit Bhaskar reports. Match boxUpdated: May 08, 2011 01:18 IST
The fourth season of the Indian Premier League has hit the business end, and two teams still in the hunt for a knockout spot, face off at the Chinnaswamy Stadium on Sunday, knowing well that the season could end sooner than expected for one of them.
Fresh off hammering the Kings XI Punjab, the Royal Challengers Bangalore (RCB) will look to extend their unbeaten run to six games when they face the Kochi Tuskers Kerala, who have come back strongly after a disappointing start.
The RCB started their campaign against the Tuskers, and eked out a win on the back of some exhilarating batting from South Africa's AB de Villiers. After that, they endured three straight losses and looked headed for the cellar, before an injury to pace spearhead Dirk Nannes, and an inspired move to sign West Indies' Chris Gayle, turned their fortunes around.
Since the Jamaican's arrival, the RCB have been unstoppable. In just four matches, he has achieved what no other batsman has in the league's four-year history - scoring two centuries. He's also been handy with the ball, keeping the run rate in check, and, as he showed against the Kings XI, getting crucial wickets with his off-spinners.
Gayle's blistering form has made up for Tillakaratne Dilshan's poor return. The Sri Lanka skipper will be returning home after this match and will be keen to justify his huge auction price with at least one solid performance.
While Gayle's form has been the biggest reason for RCB's turnaround, Daniel Vettori's men have also been boosted by the return to form of spearhead Zaheer Khan and the emergence of left-arm pacer S Aravind as a reliable new-ball partner for Zaheer.
For Mahela Jayawardene's men, the IPL has been a see-saw tournament with fortunes changing on a daily basis. Looking down and out just a week ago, back-to-back wins over the Delhi Daredevils and Kolkata Knight Riders has shown that opponents should take them lightly at their own peril.
Jayawardene has been his usual composed self, and with Australian veteran Brad Hodge chipping in usefully, the batting has a well-rounded look. Opener Brendon McCullum is the team's leading scorer and the former Knight Rider will look to outdo his old KKR opening partner, Gayle.
All-rounder Ravindra Jadeja has also made his presence felt, contributing with both bat and ball.
New-ball bowlers RP Singh and S Sreesanth have been erratic, but when they get it right, they can be very difficult to get away.
Vinay Kumar has been the standout performer with the ball, taking a team-leading 11 wickets this season.