The Kolkata Knight Riders (KKR) are approaching a stage where every match becomes a must-win for them, while the Royal Challengers Bangalore (RCB) will look to get back the consistency they showed at the start of the campaign. It is these backstories and permutations which will make the second half of IPL 2021 interesting.
With two wins and a seventh-place finish to show, KKR have disappointed mightily this season. Led by champion white-ball skipper, Eoin Morgan’s Midas touch in 50 overs cricket hasn’t translated into success for KKR, with problems aplenty for the franchise.
The same issues brought their downfall once again in the last game, with KKR losing to DC by seven wickets. A sluggish powerplay meant they were behind the eight-ball from ball one, with only Andre Russell’s heroics taking them past 150. But a below-par total was never going to be enough, with Prithvi Shaw storm guiding DC to victory and breaking KKR’s resolve in the process.
RCB come into the game on the back of a loss as well, but find themselves in a different position this season. With 10 points already on the board, they can afford an off day here and there, but Virat Kohli will know the loss to Punjab Kings highlighted the chinks in their armor.
An off day for its death bowlers combined with the will of KL Rahul saw PBKS put up a 180-run target. Widely considered to be below par at the time, RCB faltered in their chase as young Harpreet Brar spun a web around the batsmen. That their top order misfired again would be a cause for concern for RCB.
It was RCB’s middle-order which powered them to victory against KKR earlier this season, courtesy of the Maxwell-De Villiers show. RCB put up 204/4 on a hot Chennai afternoon that day, restricting KKR to 166/8 to register a thumping win. The victory got RCB one step closer to matching KKR’s head-to-head record against them, with the tally 14-13 in KKR’s favor right now.
IPL 2021: KKR vs RCB match prediction
"If you can't change a man, change the man" were Brendon McCullum’s words after the DC defeat and the KKR head coach may finally ring in the changes against RCB.
Nitish Rana and Shubman Gill are the second slowest opening pair to have aggregated more than 25 runs in IPL 2021, and one of them could get the axe on Monday. Rahul Tripathi has shown impetus this season and has opened successfully in the past, while in Sunil Narine they have someone who can tonk the ball from the get-go. Karun Nair is another option, and the batsman could finally get his first game of the season against RCB.
Sunil Narine is also expected to dismiss AB de Villiers, considering the South African averages just 15.33 against him. The in-form South African has only been dismissed by spinners this season, and Varun Chakravarthy will hope to aid Narine’s bid as they look to get the prized wicket. KKR may also bring in Kamlesh Nagarkoti for Shivam Mavi after the latter was taken to the cleaners by Prithvi Shaw.
RCB have stuck by their philosophy despite losing some games this season and it will be interesting to see how they approach the KKR clash. Calls for Virat Kohli to drop down to no.3 grew louder after Rajat Patidar’s pedestrian knock, but it is unlikely we will see a change from the RCB skipper.
RCB have the fastest scoring partnership in IPL 2021, with the duo averaging 55.83 to go with it. If RCB tinker with their line-up, Washington Sundar may come back considering KKR have a few left-handers in their side. Whether that would be for Patidar or Ahmed remains to be seen.
Harshal Patel proudly holds the Purple Cap this season, but his recent form will be a worry for RCB. The pacer has a death-over economy of 14.87 outside Chennai this season, and Virat Kohli will do well to mix it up at the death rather than rely solely on Patel.
RCB’s campaign has gone slightly off track after winning four on the trot earlier this season. Although they have problems to solve, they have enough individual pedigree to win against a KKR side that has looked out of sorts despite having some of the best T20 players in the game.
Prediction: RCB to win