Royal Challengers Bangalore are still far behind Kings XI Punjab on the points table, but they have mounted something of a salvation job after starting the season with six defeats, winning three of their last four matches. That sequence of losses had ended against Kings XI in their earlier fixture. Moreover, they are coming into this game after a heart-stopping one-run win against Chennai Super Kings, which would have done their morale a lot of good, while Kings XI are coming in on the back of a loss against Delhi Capitals.
Royal Challengers still have issues to sort, but the addition of Dale Steyn has revitalised their bowling attack, and given them an edge they didn't have earlier. The rest of the pacers seem to have rallied around Steyn, which has lifted the whole team.
Kings XI have had an inconsistent season, which their record of five wins and five losses encapsulates. They haven't gone on a dominant winning run, but have had enough in the bank to not sink to the kind of loss sequence Royal Challengers did. As a sub-plot to the game, it will be a sort of homecoming for Kings XI, who have a squad filled with ex-Royal Challengers players, starting from Chris Gayle and KL Rahul at the top, to Mandeep Singh and Sarfaraz Khan in the middle, and even the likes of Mayank Agarwal and Karun Nair.
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Mujeeb Ur Rahman's fitness status is still uncertain. He is being constantly monitored by the Kings XI physiotherapist, and a call on his availability will be taken on the afternoon of the match.
For nostalgic Royal Challengers fans, it was the perfect game. Chris Gayle, Virat Kohli and AB de Villiers all got runs, and their team ended up winning. Of course, Gayle's runs came for the opposite side, and he finished on a poetic 99 not out against his old franchise. But a Kohli-de Villiers partnership set the platform for an eventually successful chase as Royal Challengers got their first points of the season.
Royal Challengers Bangalore: 1 Parthiv Patel (wk), 2 Virat Kohli (capt), 3 AB de Villiers, 4 Moeen Ali, 5 Marcus Stoinis, 6 Akshdeep Nath, 7 Pawan Negi, 8 Umesh Yadav, 9 Dale Steyn, 10 Navdeep Saini, 11 Yuzvendra Chahal
Kings XI Punjab: 1 KL Rahul (wk), 2 Chris Gayle, 3 Mayank Agarwal, 4 David Miller, 5 Mandeep Singh, 6 Sarfaraz Khan, 7 R Ashwin (capt), 8 Hardus Viljoen, 9 Mujeeb Ur Rahman, 10 Mohammed Shami, 11 M Ashwin
It might end up back-firing, but Kings XI should try to use spin against de Villiers, especially early on. De Villiers has been among Royal Challengers' best batsmen, as always, but his numbers against spin in IPL 2019 are shockingly mediocre: an average of 19.6 and a strike rate that's only 115.3. The combination of R Ashwin, M Ashwin and Mujeeb could exploit that, which makes Mujeeb's participation even more crucial. Additionally, even Parthiv Patel and Marcus Stoinis haven't been too hot against spin this IPL, with strike rates marginally above 100.
This is not so much a strategy punt as an obvious point: Royal Challengers need to get Moeen Ali higher up the order. This is the last game for which he will be available too, and neither his batting, nor his bowling have been used very effectively so far. It's with the bat, though, that the difference is stark. In the middle overs, Moeen has been striking at 165. The next best in the team is de Villiers, who is considerably lower at 138. Royal Challengers have been losing momentum in the middle overs, and a somewhat strange insistence on maintaining a right-left combination cannot compensate for the runs Moeen is likely to score, much quicker than anyone else at that.
Mohammed Shami has been having a good IPL 2019, continuing his white-ball resurgence. The one thing he might want to consider is cutting down on the slower balls and sticking to his natural strengths. He hasn't tried too many slower balls - only 11.1% of all his deliveries have been below 130 kph - but when he has gone slow, his economy rate has been over 13. When bowling quicker, his economy rate is 8.5.
Stats that matter
Before Steyn joined Royal Challengers, their bowling average in the Powerplay across eight matches was 140.3. Since he's come on, for the last two games, that figure is 9.9.
Navdeep Saini has the best dot-ball percentage in the death overs this season, with 45.8% of his deliveries between overs 17 and 20 not scored off. He's ahead of the likes of Jaspit Bumrah, Lasith Malinga and Kagiso Rabada.
Historically, both teams have been pretty evenly matched, with Kings XI having 12 wins to Royal Challengers' 11. But Royal Challengers have won the last three meetings between the two sides.