IPL Qualifier 1: Virat Kohli versus Suresh Raina
Powered by an in-form Virat Kohli's inspirational leadership, Royal Challengers Bangalore would look to inch closer to a maiden IPL title triumph when they take on table-toppers Gujarat Lions in the Qualifier I, here tomorrow.
RCB were in a real spot of bother as they needed to win their last four games to make it to the play-offs. The Bangalore outfit showed great fighting spirit, with Kohli leading from the front, to record four consecutive wins to finish the league engagements at the second spot.
RCB finished the preliminary round with 16 points from 14 games, just behind leaders Gujarat Lions, who garnered 18 from 14 matches.
RCB seem to have struck form at just the right time and after a not-so-impressive start to the season, the Kohli-led side has dished out four clinical performances to beat the Lions (by 144 runs), Kolkata Knight Riders (by 9 wickets), Kings XI Punjab (by 82 runs D/L method) and Delhi Daredevils (by 6 wickets) to seal their top-four place.
In the do-or-die battle against Daredevils last night, RCB first restricted their opponents to 138 for eight and then chased down the target with consummate ease -- Kohli again hogging the limelight with an unbeaten 54.
RCB would be desperate to continue their winning momentum for two more matches and ensure that they improve on their runners-up finish from the 2009 and 2011 season.
The last time RCB squared up against Gujarat here, they recorded the biggest ever (144-run) victory in the history of IPL. AB de Villiers (129 not out) and Virat Kohli (109) went on a rampage in that game and scored magnificent centuries.
And come tomorrow, the Bangalore outfit will once again fancy their chances on home turf. The biggest hero for RCB this season has been skipper Kohli, who is perhaps enjoying the best phase of his batting career.
Kohli has so far amassed a record 919 runs in the ongoing IPL with four centuries and six fifties at a staggering average of 91.90.
Kohli has also been an impressive captain and infused confidence in the team after a disappointing start. At one point of time, qualifying for the play-offs looked a distant dream, but the captain made it possible with his glorious batting and leadership qualities.
In the company of Kohli, de Villiers and Chris Gayle also dished out some sizzling batting performances. The trio has been nothing short of a nightmare for the team's opponents.