Bangalore: Royal Challengers Bangalore will face a buoyant Delhi Daredevils side as they begin their Indian Premier League (IPL) season five campaign at home on Saturday.
Delhi come into the game on the back of a convincing eight-wicket win over Kolkata Knight Riders at Eden Gardens on Thursday, and go into this match with confidence despite still missing several big names. Last year’s finalists RCB, on the other hand, have plenty of stars to count on, having made a few additions to an already-strong squad, and will be hopeful of another strong season this time around as well.
Leading the way at the top for Bangalore will be the big-hitting Chris Gayle, who topscored last season with an astonishing 608 runs at a strike rate of 183.13 despite playing just 12 of the 16 matches. However, there is now another player on whom RCB can rely on to provide the fireworks – Virat Kohli.
The Indian has been in sensational form, with three centuries in his last four innings including an unbeaten 86-ball 133 against Sri Lanka in Australia and an even more remarkable 183 against Pakistan in Mirpur. At his best in the shorter formats, especially in chases, Kohli will be a key player for a Bangalore batting line-up that also includes the likes of AB de Villiers, Tillakaratne Dilshan, Saurabh Tiwary and Cheteshwar Pujara, though Dilshan will only arrive after the Tests against England.
Led by Daniel Vettori, Bangalore have plenty of options in the bowling department as well, strengthened by new signings Vinay Kumar and Muttiah Muralitharan. There will be concerns over the fitness of Zaheer Khan, but Charl Langeveldt, Abhimanyu Mithun and Dirk Nannes can provide able cover should the Indian veteran miss out.
Meanwhile, Delhi are unlikely to change the combination that earned them a win against KKR, with the bowlers particularly doing the job for skipper Virender Sehwag. Morne Morkel was outstanding as he picked up three wickets, while Umesh Yadav and Roelof van der Merwe bagged two apiece.
The batsmen did not have much to do afterwards, but some lusty blows from Irfan Pathan, promoted up the order to No. 3, will have cheered the team still missing the services of big names like Mahela Jayawardene, Kevin Pietersen and David Warner, who are busy with international commitments. New Zealand’s Ross Taylor is also unavailable after he broke his hand during the third Test against South Africa last month.
On paper, Bangalore are a superior side and will be the slight favourites in front of their home crowd, but Delhi have shown that they can compete and will be hoping their batting can come up with the goods to earn a second successive win in what should be a high-scoring encounter.
Delhi Daredevils: 1 Virender Sehwag (capt), 2 Naman Ojha (wk), 3 Aaron Finch, 4 Glenn Maxwell, 5 Venugopal Rao, 6 Irfan Pathan, 7 Yogesh Nagar, 8 Roelof van der Merwe, 9 Morne Morkel, 10 Shahbaz Nadeem, 11 Umesh Yadav
Royal Challengers Bangalore: 1 Chris Gayle, 2 Mayank Agarwal, 3 Virat Kohli, 4 AB de Villiers (wk), 5 Saurabh Tiwary, 6 Cheteshwar Pujara, 7 Asad Pathan, 8 Vinay Kumar, 9 Abhimanyu Mithun/Zaheer Khan, 10 Dirk Nannes, 11 Muttiah Muralitharan