After a gap of four seasons, Royal Challengers Bangalore (RCB) are poised to make the playoffs in the Indian Premier League (IPL) but they first have to clear a tricky hurdle in no-hopers Delhi Daredevils whom they host here on Sunday in the concluding league game.
Skipper Virat Kohli's 19-ball 44 in Hyderabad on Friday gained RCB two vital points from the rain-truncated game against Sunrisers Hyderabad. Thus, with 15 points from 13 matches, RCB are within striking distance of a playoff berth and a win against Daredevils will seal their spot in the top four.
The last time RCB made the playoffs was in 2011 when they finished runners-up to Chennai Super Kings (CSK) while last year, the Bengaluru outfit ended up seventh.
The race for the playoffs is so tight going into this weekend, when two double-headers are scheduled, that RCB cannot afford to drop even one point. As such, they will be hoping that the pre-monsoon showers that have been regular visitors to the city in the past fortnight, will stay away to facilitate a full game on Sunday.
In sharp contrast, the proceedings hold little value for JP Duminy's Daredevils who are out of the competition and are placed a rung above Kings XI with 10 points after suffering four consecutive defeats before strolling to a six-wicket win over CSK in a low-scoring game at Raipur.
Thus, the under-performing Daredevils though out for the count, still have some fire burning in their collective bellies to trip any team and RCB will be wary of their guests, who promised a lot but delivered little despite possessing a strong line-up.
Daredevils' progress this season has been hampered by inconsistencies in their batting where barring young opener Shreyas Iyer, the rest have failed to fire on a regular basis, though their bowling has improved dramatically in quality after the return of veteran left-arm seamer Zaheer Khan, who along with South African quick Morne Morkel has emerged a potent force.
On the other hand, Kohli's RCB wears a settled look with the skipper along with fellow opener Chris Gayle and South African star AB de Villiers lending a new dimension to Twenty20 batting while Aussie fast bowler Mitchell Starc has made a huge difference to their attack after missing some early games.
Also, with a wealth of talent in their ranks, RCB will start Sunday's game as firm favourites, but they need to play as well as they did at the Ferozeshah Kotla last month when they beat Daredevils by 10 wickets after knocking out the hosts for 95 before Kohli and Gayle reached the target with ease.