On a roll with three successive wins, a Jacques Kallis-propelled Royal Challengers Bangalore juggernaut runs into a staggered but robust Chennai Super Kings in the Indian Premier League on Tuesday.
RCB have been on a wild run, notching up three consecutive wins since their defeat to Kolkata Knight Riders in their tournament opener.
Their batting have come alive with Kallis leading the batting brigade with a bevy of unbeaten and match-winning knocks like 65, 89, 44 and 66 in the last four ties.
The supremely talented Manish Pandey has also been in rollicking form, producing cameos that have left even seasoned cricketers bewildered on the field.
The 21-year-old, who has been shortlisted for the ICC T20 World Cup in the Caribbean islands, has not only destroyed bowling attacks with impunity but has also caught the eye with his outstanding fielding.
RCB have another big hitter in Robin Uthappa, who virtually butchered Sreesanth, plundering 25 runs in one eventful over off the emotive Kings XI Punjab paceman.
Having been part of the triumphant T20 World Cup team in South Africa, Uthappa would be itching to win back his place in the Indian team with more blazing performances in the IPL.
Besides their batting, RCB have also jelled well as a bowling unit, restricting Rajasthan Royals (92) and Mumbai Indians (151) to modest scores in the their last two outings.
Speedster Dale Steyn, hat-trick man Praveen Kumar and last match’s hero R Vinay Kumar have done their job pretty well, giving skipper Anil Kumble the liberty to tease and lure batsmen to their doom with flight and guile.
All-rounder Kallis have also contributed with the ball and have chipped in whenever the team needed him most.
Considering their match-winning performance over the last week, RCB should start favourites. But they would make a mistake if they take Chennai Super Kings for granted.
For Chennai, Matthew Hayden, who destroyed Delhi Dare Devils with a blistering 43-ball 92, could be dangerous anywhere, anytime. So could Suresh Raina, captaining the side in place of the injured Mahendra Singh Dhoni.
Raina’s men, who have lost two of their first four games, should be an incensed lot and last night’s nail-biting Super Over defeat to Kings XI Punjab is bound to play on their mind.
Chasing a modest 136, CSK could only manage to tie the game. And when it mattered most, they fell excruciatingly short in the one-over eliminator, throwing a life-line to Punjab who had lost three games on a trot.
Defeats like these could be demoralising but, on the converse, could also trigger performances which are much above their potential. But for that to happen, they would have to consign the dramatic loss to history before the game starts.
The wheels of fortunes can change quickly in a T20 game. A different venue and a bouncy and lively wicket could produce different results. With two teams of equal professional ilk and skill challenging each other, Tuesday’s night game should be an enthralling fare. (PTI)