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IPL-2024: Punjab Kings will take on Royal Challengers Bengaluru in Dharamshala: PBKS opt to bowl

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In IPL, Punjab Kings will take on Royal Challengers Bengaluru at Himachal Pradesh Cricket Association Stadium in Dharamshala. The match will start at 7.30 pm this evening. Punjab Kings have won the toss and have opted to field.

Such has been the competitive nature of this year’s IPL that no team has officially been eliminated at the final leg of the league stage. Mumbai Indians, who have just four wins from 12 games, are also in with a shout, albeit a complicated one at that. Over the years, 16 points has been enough to make the cut but with the expansion to ten teams, it is no longer the case, Which is why teams like KKR and RR wouldn’t want to relax despite sitting on 16 points. Meanwhile, PBKS and RCB are two teams who can only get as far as 14 points, meaning a host of other results need to go their way for qualification.

It is in such a scenario that they face-off at Dharamsala in a virtual elimination game with the loser joining Mumbai Indians on that bus that can only get as far as 12 points. By all means, this is a clash between two sides who couldn’t have had more contrasting routes leading up to this game. Punjab Kings may have only recorded four wins so far from 11 games but the results don’t tell you how close they were in many of their seven defeats to getting across the line. While top order failures cost them in most games, death bowling was also a concern in the other losses.

The high-intent approach of Punjab’s batting did mean that they produced an unthinkable run chase against table toppers KKR, gunning down the highest T20 chase of all time. Most of their batting has revolved around the juniors like Shashank Singh and Ashutosh Sharma who had to do the heavy lifting after all the early damage. The duo have certainly impressed, more so Shashank, but it wasn’t until Jonny Bairstow found form that Punjab started to look ominous. The heroics against KKR at Eden Gardens were followed by a special win against CSK at Chepauk but the defeat to the defending champions in the reverse fixture at Dharamsala has hurt Punjab’s hopes. They do have the personnel to turn things around but it will boil down to their temperament under pressure.

The challenge for PBKS is that they are running into a RCB outfit that’s on a three-match winning streak. IPL’s eternal tragic heroes had just a solitary win in their first eight games, having been outplayed more often than not. Early elimination seemed certain until Faf du Plessis’ men started to notch up one win after the other. It started by upstaging Sunrisers Hyderabad in Hyderabad before completing a double over Gujarat Titans. All three wins were achieved with a degree of dominance.

The lack of pressure in recent games may have been a reason, as suggested by Faf in his post-match presentations. Bangalore’s batting line-up struggled for impetus in the first half of the season. But with nothing to lose (qualification chances are extremely complex), RCB has played with more freedom, especially with the bat. Faf’s own form has spiked while the entry of Will Jacks has certainly added thrust to the batting unit. The bowling, which lacked purpose and discipline early on, seems to have worked out their strategies better in the last three games.

The nature of T20 cricket is such that the contrasting roadmaps of the two sides are not of much significance, given that they both find themselves in similar terrain. It may not be advertised as one but this is effectively a knockout game of sorts.

Squads:

Royal Challengers Bengaluru Squad: Virat Kohli, Faf du Plessis(c), Will Jacks, Rajat Patidar, Glenn Maxwell, Cameron Green, Dinesh Karthik(w), Swapnil Singh, Karn Sharma, Mohammed Siraj, Yash Dayal, Vijaykumar Vyshak, Mahipal Lomror, Anuj Rawat, Suyash Prabhudessai, Akash Deep, Himanshu Sharma, Reece Topley, Tom Curran, Lockie Ferguson, Mayank Dagar, Alzarri Joseph, Manoj Bhandage, Saurav Chauhan, Rajan Kumar

Punjab Kings Squad: Prabhsimran Singh, Jonny Bairstow, Rilee Rossouw, Shashank Singh, Sam Curran(c), Jitesh Sharma(w), Ashutosh Sharma, Harpreet Brar, Harshal Patel, Rahul Chahar, Kagiso Rabada, Arshdeep Singh, Harpreet Singh Bhatia, Tanay Thyagarajan, Vidhwath Kaverappa, Rishi Dhawan, Liam Livingstone, Shikhar Dhawan, Chris Woakes, Atharva Taide, Nathan Ellis, Shivam Singh, Prince Choudhary, Vishwanath Singh

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