|The Gujarat Lions and the Royal Challengers will square off for a place in the final of IPL 2016.|
Gujarat Lions vs Royal Challengers Bangalore | Tuesday 24 May | 16:30 | Gujarat
Following what has been a rollercoaster three weeks of IPL action, we’re left with four teams and as many games in the 2016 edition of the planet’s premier franchise T20 competition.
The first qualifier will see the top two teams from the regular season slug it out. The Gujarat Lions have done remarkably well in their first IPL season, finishing at the summit of the regular season standings. They’ll have it all to do, however, as they face the prospect of going up against the red-hot Royal Challengers Bangalore who will be looking to secure their third IPL final appearance.
To Win Match
Gujarat Lions 5/4 | Tie 35/1 | Royal Challengers 13/20
The Gujarat Lions were ensured of a top-two finish after easily chasing down the Mumbai Indians’ 172-run total on Saturday 21 May. That said, the game is likely to be remembered for West Indies teammates, Dwayne Bravo and Kieron Pollard squaring up to one another in what was an absolute must-win match for both sides.
In the end, it was the Lions’ superior approach to the Powerplay that laid the foundation for an emphatic victory. The Gujarat franchise powered their way to 70-1 after six overs, scoring 21 more runs and losing two fewer wickets than their Saturday opposition. It is this top order strength that will be key to stopping the Royal Challengers’ charge the final in Mumbai this Sunday.
The Lions have leaned quite heavily on the likes of Aaron Finch, Suresh Raina, Dwayne Smith, Dinesh Karthik and Brendon McCullum for runs this season. They do have some very capable middle order pinch-hitters in the form of Bravo and Jadeja, although Brad Hodge would be happier if the top four got the business done without exposing the middle and lower order.
I do think that the Gujarat franchise may struggle with the ball against Royal Challengers’ glittering array of batsmen. Their two top wicket-takers, Dwayne Bravo and Dhawal Kulkarni, have been on the expensive side this season.
Suresh Raina will have to be clever with how he rotates his bowlers. While Praveen Kumar hasn’t been the biggest threat in the world, he has been economical. And T20 cricket is all about building pressure and taking wickets in the field, allowing the RCB top order to get off to flyer is cricket suicide.
The only way I see the Gujarat Lions winning this game is if their top order has an absolute blinder and outscore RCB’s top four. Don’t get me wrong, it’s not impossible, but highly unlikely on current form. You can’t always look at form when two teams meet in the knockout phase of any competition, though.
Royal Challengers Bangalore
From being down and out and in complete disarray, the Royal Challengers Bangalore have come alive in the second half of the season. Virat Kohli and co have been sublime over the last two weeks, winning six out of their last seven games to surge to second place on the IPL standings.
While their batting has remained top class – mostly due to the exploits of Kohli who has managed an astounding 919-runs in just 14 matches. These numbers are simply astonishing and quite clearly point to the Indian dynamo as the best limited overs batsman in the world at the moment.
And in the rare event that he doesn’t quite come off? Well, the Royal Challengers can always fall back on the considerable talents of Chris Gayle, AB de Villiers and Shane Watson – all match winners in their own right, with Watson having won the tournament MVP award twice in the past while Gayle claimed the accolade in the 2011 edition of the competition.
Where the Royal Challengers have struggled, and indeed will continue to struggle in the play-offs, is with ball in hand. They’ve been hard with withdrawals from their squad with Samuel Badree, Adam Milne, and Mitchell Starc all leaving the tournament having collectively played only a single game in the tournament.
While the Bangalore franchise’s bowlers have improved as the season’s worn on, I think that the bulk of the work still needs to be done by their top order. If the top four fail to hit their straps, the Royal Challengers stand no chance against a supremely talented Gujarat Lions outfit.
Verdict: Royal Challengers Bangalore at 13/20
This Royal Challengers side, led by Virat Kohli, look absolutely unstoppable at the moment. Their bowlers have found some rhythm of late while their top order continues to decimate just about anyone that stands in their way. Back them to silence the Gujarat faithful at 13/20.
Value Bet: A hundred to be scored in the match: Yes at 5/1
There’s just far too much batting talent on display here to ignore this 5/1 shot. Virat Kohli, Brendon McCullum, Shane Watson, AB de Villiers, Aaron Finch, Dwayne Smith, Chris Gayle and Suresh Raina are all capable. Some excellent value here at 5/1.