It was a slugfest and a half in the group stages but somehow, in their own merry and not-so-merry ways, both SRH and RCB booked their places in Friday’s eliminator. To say luck will play a part will be an understatement, but, nevertheless, we’ve jotted down our very own gameplan for both sides.
Where are RCB and SRH playing on Friday?
At the Sheikh Zayed Stadium in Abu Dhabi
What’s the record of both sides at the venue this season?
SRH - P3 W1 L2
RCB - P4 W2 L2
Given one of SRH’s two losses at the venue came in a Super Over, neither side has an added advantage due to the venue.
What’s the H2H record of the two sides this season?
First meeting: RCB beat SRH by 10 runs in Dubai
Second meeting: SRH beat RCB by 5 wickets in Sharjah
Again, nothing to separate the two sides. At least this season.
Let’s get something straight: throwing history out of the window, and rightfully so, Friday’s clash is going to be a lottery. The toss, like it has done many a time this season, including these two sides’ last H2H clash, will unfortunately play a crucial part. Each of the last five matches played in Abu Dhabi have been won by the team chasing, so one would assume that the team batting first will be significantly handicapped. That said, both RCB and SRH will increase their chances of winning by manifold by prepping themselves to ace the key battles.
Royal Challengers Bangalore
268 runs in 3 matches @ 9.17 runs per over; two hundred-run stands: Ever since Wriddhiman Saha has moved to the top, the duo of him and Warner have lit bowlers alive. Allowing the two to tee off up-front could signal an early end to RCB’s IPL 2020 campaign.
What can they do to counter it?
Open the bowling with Mohammad Siraj and……….Shahbaz Ahmed
We’ll get to the Wriddhiman Saha part first. We know that Saha, particularly this season, has had one role in the powerplay: to go bonkers. This season, inside the first six, he’s maintained a SR of 169. But what’s important to note is that, due to the intrinsic nature of who he is as a batsman, Saha’s SR significantly drops post the field restrictions. This season, he’s only struck at 129 between overs 7 to 15 and since IPL 2014, his SR in the middle overs has been a paltry 118.3. So what’s the key here? Choke him up-front. How can it be done? Through a left-arm spinner (read: Shahbaz Ahmed). In the last six IPL seasons, Saha has struck at just 90.9 vs left-arm orthodox bowlers inside the first six, and at just 116.3 overall. This is by far his worst match-up, as he has struck at at least over 120 against every other bowler-type.
Coming to part two, it is simply a no-brainer to throw the ball to Siraj from the other end. Siraj loves Abu Dhabi, and all 5 of his powerplay wickets this season have come at the venue. His figures in Abu Dhabi inside the powerplay this season are 6-2-24-5. On top of this, he’s also maintained an ER of 5.33 against left-handers inside the first six this season. - could come handy versus Warner, who has struck at 94.2 inside the first six against right-arm medium bowlers this season.
Why not Washington Sundar?
Sundar has been a star in the powerplay and he even accounted for the wicket of Warner in Sharjah, but Abu Dhabi is where he’s been ineffective - he’s yet to take a wicket inside the powerplay at the Sheikh Zayed Stadium. Plus, given Saha is a good sweeper of the ball, bowling Sundar up-front could prove to be counterproductive for the Reds.
Problem child 2: Batting way, way, wayyyyyyy, too slow and cautiously
No team in the IPL has scored at a slower rate than RCB inside the first 15 overs of games. The culprits are their top three, all of whom boast of a SR south of 127. Criminal, to say the least.
What can they do to counter it?
“We can be more brave with the bat in pockets,” said skipper Virat post the Delhi loss, and well, that is exactly what the side needs to do: show more intent and put less value on the wicket. Across their last 4 games in the group stages - all of which they lost - the Reds scored an average of just 42.5 runs inside the powerplay. While with Phillipe, it was the case of him not being able to find the gaps, with Kohli and Padikkal, it was downright lack of intent. This needs to go and go right away. The top three batsmen of RCB, Kohli included, need to shelve the ‘bat long’ approach and take conscious risks, even if it means losing a wicket or two. It won’t be easy. They will be up against a wily customer in the form of Holder and the best powerplay bowler in the competition’s history in the form of Sandeep Sharma. In each of their last four games, RCB lost putting up a below-par score, and on more than one occasion prior to those string of losses, de Villiers snatched victory from the jaws of defeat for the side. It would be naive to stick to the same old outdated and unproductive strategy.
Why is this important?
Simple: you fail to go hard at Sunrisers in the powerplay, you’re doomed. The Orange Army’s ER of 6.81 between overs 7-15 is the best for any side in IPL 2020 - no one else has an ER below 7.00 - and so by adhering to conservatism up-front, you are digging your own grave. Knowing what Rashid and Natarajan did to them in Sharjah, the Reds should be well aware of a major hurdle in the form of middle-overs.
When you win three on the bounce as dominantly as SRH did, issues to be addressed will be few and far between, but still, nevertheless, staying one step ahead of the opposition will always help.
Ploy 1: Play the waiting game, hold back at least five overs of Rashid and Nadeem for AB de Villiers
This is not a secret anymore. AB de Villiers is uncomfortable against the ball turning away from him, be it the left-arm spinner or the leg-spinner, and RCB, themselves, have conceded defeat pertaining to this match-up on multiple instances this season. For SRH, the plan is simple: unless an unlikely extraordinary onslaught ensues from one of the top three - which is very unlikely - hold back at least five, if not more, overs of Nadeem and Rashid for AB. Kohli has a dodgy record against the leggies and left-armers since IPL 2018 - 9 dismissals and a SR south of 120 - but he, in all likelihood, will not hurt the Sunrisers; Kohli has boasted of a SR of 110.5 in overs 1-15 this season and in all games barring the CSK encounter, he’s depended on AB to bail the side out of trouble. Thus going for broke by unleashing Rashid and Nadeem on Kohli will not be so wise; a more efficient option would be to bowl out Sandeep Sharma up-front, given he’s dismissed the RCB skipper 7 times in his career.
Why should Nadeem and Rashid be held back for AB?
RCB are a one-man-team - the heart, soul, and nucleus of the line-up is AB de Villiers. At least this season. Stopping AB de Villiers will equate to stopping RCB and in the form of Rashid and Nadeem, SRH have the perfect weapons to do the same. Since the start of IPL 2018, AB has been dismissed 10 times by leggies and left-armers at an SR under 125, by far the worst he’s fared against any bowler type. This season, he’s struck at just 110.2 and 110.5 versus the leggies and left-armers, compared to over 150.00 against the rest (min 10 balls), and as it turned out, he was dismissed by Shahbaz Nadeem in the previous clash. The plan, for SRH, is pretty much crystal clear; it will all come down to the execution.
Ploy 2: Hit Chris Morris out of oblivion
3/19, 2/17, 0/22, 4/26, 0,16, 1/36, 1/36, 0/19 (2), 0/19 (2). Notice a pattern? Well, RCB lost each of the highlighted games, in which Chris Morris was taken to the cleaners. Turns out the sides who came up against him in the first half of the tournament just paid a tad too much respect to the South African than what he deserved. Morris can be devastating with the new cherry, yes, particularly due to his ability to swing the ball both ways at pace, but something that’s made him an inconsistent entity throughout the course of his career has been his tendency to crumble under pressure. Across each of RCB’s last four games, starting with the CSK game where both du Plessis and Gaikwad unsettled him by scooping him and dancing down the wicket, Morris strayed wide, sprayed the ball around, and erred with his lines and lengths on the first instance of him being taken on, thereby gifting the batters runs aplenty up-front. Though Pandey did take him for a couple of boundaries in the fifth over in the last H2H clash, the SRH batters did not hurt Morris as much as they should have, and Friday will provide a window of opportunity for the same.
Why target Morris?
First and foremost, Morris, as things stand, is a bowler down on confidence. He is, going by current form, bound to be way less threatening than Siraj, particularly inside the powerplay in Abu Dhabi. The primary advantage of taking RCB’s premier bowler, Morris, apart will lie in the fact that it will give the batters leeway against Chahal. Far too often teams have started tentatively against RCB in the powerplay and have lost their heads in the middle trying to go after the leg-spinner; it is a suicidal ploy that will not work 9/10 times. A smarter option would be to go the Delhi way from Monday: take the chances against the pacers and milk the spinners.
Other important pointers for both teams
a) Win the toss and chase: there’s no two ways about it.
b) Pick the extra batsman and go big from ball one. Abu Dhabi is, by some distance, the best batting wicket in the entire competition, and teams, of late, have been punished for being cautious.
c) Use floaters effectively to counter the spinners. Dube/Sundar and Holder can all be utilized to great effect to either up the scoring rate on the back of a brisk start or counter-punch the opposition.