RCB and CSK grapple for top spot in clash of fire and ice

Preview

No side since IPL 2015 has won their first five IPL games. Can CSK stop RCB from achieving that?

Big picture

After two weeks – barring their most passionate fans – very few people would’ve imagined that Royal Challengers Bangalore and Chennai Super Kings would be at the summit of the IPL 2021 points table. Definitely not after last season. But that’s the beauty of the tournament – you come to expect the unexpected.

New purchases Glenn Maxwell and Moeen Ali have been revelations. Devdutt Padikkal and Ruturaj Gaikwad have found their IPL 2020 form again. Two unfancied bowling units are punching above their weight. Simply put, it’s a contest between the two most in-form teams of the season.

After a defeat first up, the Super Kings are hunting for their fourth straight win. The Royal Challengers are still unbeaten, and are one victory away to become the first side since Rajasthan Royals in 2015 to start their season 5-0. It’s the perfect position for both sides to be in, but form and confidence are fickle things. One loss can swiftly become two, and when teams start to slide, it can often be a freefall. That’s what captains MS Dhoni and Virat Kohli will be looking to avoid in the afternoon contest.

One team has the fireworks to go big, the other has the best batting depth in the tournament. And it’s a contest at the Wankhede, where – bowlers, look away now – both teams scored at over 10 per over in their previous matches. It’s captain cool coming up against captain aggressive. Which one will prevail, fire or ice?

Team news

The Super Kings will still be without the services of the quarantining Jason Behrendorff, who will be available after April 26. The Royal Challengers have their full squad at their disposal.

Likely XIs

Chennai Super Kings 1 Faf du Plessis, 2 Ruturaj Gaikwad, 3 Moeen Ali, 4 Suresh Raina, 5 Ambati Rayudu, 6 Ravindra Jadeja, 7 MS Dhoni (capt, wk), 8 Sam Curran, 9 Shardul Thakur, 10 Lungi Ngidi, 11 Deepak Chahar

Royal Challengers Bangalore 1 Virat Kohli (capt), 2 Devdutt Padikkal, 3 Shahbaz Ahmed, 4 Glenn Maxwell, 5 AB de Villiers (wk), 6 Washington Sundar, 7 Kyle Jamieson, 8 Harshal Patel, 9 Kane Richardson, 10 Yuzvendra Chahal, 11 Mohammad Siraj

Strategy punt

  • Dhoni could pit Ravindra Jadeja against Maxwell, the Royal Challengers’ X-factor batter. In 11 T20s, Jadeja has dismissed Maxwell five times at an average of 11.6.
  • Kohli could use his two tall overseas pacers Kane Richardson and Kyle Jamieson against the middle order of Moeen, Suresh Raina and Ambati Rayudu for two reasons. One, none of them like the short ball, and secondly, they have feasted on spinners this season. Rayudu’s strike rate against spinners is 170, Moeen’s is 183, Raina’s 189 – the three highest among all IPL 2021 batsmen. It may need Kohli to rethink his death-overs strategy, however.

Stats that matter

  • Five of the first eight games this season have been won by the chasing side.
  • In the same period, the average first-innings score at the ground this season is 180 but the average first-innings winning score is 210.
  • Both sides have the best powerplay bowling numbers. The Super Kings have taken 11 wickets at 16.4 runs per dismissal. The Royal Challengers are second with seven wickets at 25.7.
  • When Chahar takes two or more wickets, the Super Kings have a 75% win rate. When Curran has an economy of under 7.5, the Super Kings have a 75% win rate.
  • Padikkal is the only batsman in the world (min. 1000 runs) to have an average of over 40 (45.5) and strike rate of over 140 (146) in T20s.
  • No bowler has taken more wickets than Harshal’s 12 after the first four games to an IPL season. Lasith Malinga has taken 11 twice.

    Sreshth Shah is a sub-editor at ESPNcricinfo. @sreshthx

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