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Cricket news - Desperate Bangalore await a scratchy Punjab

Both Ashwin and Kohli have a permanent captaincy point to prove.

We're safely into that territory where every game threatens to make the next one either a dead rubber or promises to leave behind a messier qualification scenario. Such is the second half IPL syndrome, where everything suddenly lights up and everything suddenly seems possible.

Also, it helps spice things up when going head-on are two of India's most animated on-field cricketers, with a permanent captaincy point to prove, unafraid to indulge in passionate send-offs and retaliations, and nursing a deep craving of finally taking the franchise to the IPL throne.

In a campaign that started off with six consecutive losses, three wins from four games does signify a turnaround alright, but given that RCB have to win each of their remaining four games to have a slight sniff in with 14 points, they'd desperately be banking on mathematics, hoping that the law of averages catches up.

Given the kind of luck they seemed to be carrying around, losing from near champagne-popping situations, the recent one-run win against CSK - a side that's usually had the wood on them over the years when it comes to close encounters - should give them confidence, although disgruntled/well-meaning critics would argue that they had no business taking it that close in the first place.

Punjab, meanwhile, points-wise, are worse off than where they found themselves at this stage last year. But in a weird way, they'll be happier this time around, for their 2018's second half slide was a tough pill to swallow. They've done well thus far, not to get on a winning roll, for history, the cruel teacher, has a losing streak not very far away. With two games on the trot on the road now, their top five, which includes four former RCBians, couldn't have asked for a better surface, boundary-size or altitude to get their campaign back on track.

It augurs well to the setting that Chris Gayle, once the local DJ favourite, returns to the Chinnaswamy - he was not picked in the XI in 2018 - exactly six years since his carnage against the Pune Warriors that yielded the highest-ever T20 score, still standing the test of time. Some of those balls are still in orbit.

When: Royal Challengers Bangalore vs Kings XI Punjab, April 24, at 8:00 pm IST

Where: M Chinnaswamy Stadium, Bengaluru

What to expect: Bengaluru's evenings have been cloudy of late, a nice welcome departure from what they were at the start of the month. Although it hasn't really rained in the last few days and the forecast is that of a clear evening, there's a very fine line between trust and hope when it comes to the city's tryst with the summer monsoons.

The pitch though is expected to be good for batsmen as usual, with or without the other night's spongy bounce. It did sport a green-look as the groundsmen opened it up for a brief bit, but grass or no grass, you can trust this Chinnaswamy wicket with your life to produce runs.

Team News:

Royal Challengers Bangalore

Henrich Klaasen may have been put through a rigorous batting session on the eve of the match, but the prep's likely to only be as a cover for the soon-departing Moeen Ali. It's their death bowling though that's been the real worry though, and that's where the real musical chairs has been. Not that this gives much of a hint, but Tim Southee, Umesh Yadav and Mohammad Siraj were the first to hit the bowling nets with Yuzvendra Chahal and Ashish Nehra keeping a close tab on the proceedings.

Also given the trend of RCB backing their recently-smashed pacer for one more game before eventually dropping him, Umesh, the latest victim, should hope for the vogue to last another game. Akshdeep Nath too batted for nearly an hour, signalling the management's intent.

Probable XI: Parthiv Patel (wk), Virat Kohli (c), AB de Villiers, Akshdeep Nath, Moeen Ali, Marcus Stoinis, Pawan Negi, Umesh Yadav, Navdeep Saini, Dale Steyn, Yuzvendra Chahal

Kings XI Punjab

With questions still hanging around Mujeeb Ur Rahman - who was seen indulging in some gentle throwing exercise with the physio and then loitering around as the rest of his side slogged it out there in the middle - the Chinnaswamy wouldn't be the worst place to stay injured just a little longer. Also, with Murugan Ashwin having done decently in the last match, it could be Harpreet Brar - who again clearly did no harm to himself - who might have to face the axe in case the think-tank realizes batting Sam Curran at number six is easily a number too high.

Probable XI: Chris Gayle, Lokesh Rahul (wk), Mayank Agarwal, Mandeep Singh, David Miller, Hardus Viljoen/Nicholas Pooran, Sam Curran, Harpreet Brar/Arshdeep Singh, Ravichandran Ashwin (c), Mohammed Shami, Murugan Ashwin,

What they said:

"I might be a quiet person, but am confident and told myself before I came to RCB that I would like to score runs. I know I can do it, it is just about having the confidence now to do it," -- Moeen Ali on taking the pressure off RCB's overdependence on Virat Kohli and AB de Villiers.

"Ashwin gets a lot to the table. He is the kind of person who spends a lot of time in thinking, planning and going about understanding each and every person. He goes out to every player, communicates well to them and if there is anything required of the player or if there is a specific role that needs to communicated, he does all of that." -- Mayank Agarwal has a word of praise for his skipper, R Ashwin.

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