VISAKHAPATNAM, INDIA – MAY 10: Dwayne Bravo of the Chennai Super Kings celebrates the wicket of Axar Patel of the Delhi Capitals during the Indian Premier League IPL Qualifier Final match between the Delhi Capitals and the Chennai Super Kings at ACA-VDCA Stadium on May 10 , 2019 in Visakhapatnam, India. (Photo by Robert Cianflone / Getty Images)
Chennai Super Kings already look like the only credible threat to Delhi Capitals to win the Indian Premier League title in 2021. The Super Kings are only two points behind the top spot and dealt defending champions, the Mumbai Indians, a blow after winning with 20 runs in the first game after the restart in the United Arab Emirates.
In contrast, the opponent lost on Friday, the Royal Challengers Bangalore, their opening game of the second phase and slipped to a nine-wicket loss to the suddenly in shape Kolkata Knight Riders. Captain Virat Kohli must solve batting order problems if the Challengers hope to fend off Chennai at Sharjah Cricket Stadium.
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Three Super Kings bowlers destroyed Mumbai Batters last time. Deepak Chahar led the way by bowling Quinton de Kock LBW and also sending Anmolpreet Singh to pack. Chahar has 10 wickets to thank for this season, but he’s far from the only bowler the Challengers have to worry about.
Shardul Thakur proved his merits as a pacemaker who can get the ball rolling he bowled Suryakumar Yadav against the Indians. Thakur will attack the wicket at speed, but Dwayne Bravo stays Chennai’s ace in the hole thanks to his ability to deliver death bowling and destroy a chase. Bravo took three wickets from four overs against Mumbai, and the 37-year-old will challenge the lower order of Bangalore with a mixed pace and a timely Yorker or two.
Conquering Bravo, Chahar and Thakur and still collecting runs will be difficult for the Challengers, who only managed 92 against the Knight Riders. Kohli needs more of the midsize big hitters Glenn Maxwell and AB de Villiers. They only scored 10 runs out of 18 balls, with De Villiers being thrown around a duck by Andre Russell.
Both Maxwell and De Villiers can do better because the former has accumulated 233 runs in eight games, including 21 fours and 10 sixs. A more productive appearance in the middle can happen if the openers Kohli and Devdutt Padikkal make a stronger start. Padikkal was reasonably productive against Kolkata, making 22 runs with 20 balls, but Kohli was thrown by Pradish Krishna LBW after dropping just five.
Bangalore’s greatest hope of victory is likely to be Harshal Patel Entrust ball. He leads the purple cap with 17 wickets, and few bowlers in the tournament are able to vary the pace as effectively as the 30-year-old. Patel can attack Faf du Plessis early on after the South Africa star was sacked by Trent Boult for a duck in Chennai’s last game.
The Super Kings recovered from the early blow thanks to Ruturaj Gaikwad who missed an 88 from the middle met. Gaikwad hit a strike rate of 151.72 against 58 deliveries. His efforts were also helped by Bravo, who stepped into the fight and hit three sixes out of eight balls.
Patel has a heavy burden to shoulder trying to prevent such a deep and talented strike order. It is a microcosm of the main problem that Bangalore is facing. The Challengers have lost two of their last three and simply don’t have the range of match winners to compete with a Super Kings team that is becoming the class of competition.