The last time the Royal Challengers Bangalore and the Gujarat Lions met at the Chinnaswamy Stadium in an IPL 2016 match, Virat Kohli and AB De Villiers put on an unforgettable batting display, the kind you are unlikely to see ever again. If Kohli, De Villiers and co. can replicate that batting effort on Tuesday in Qualifier 1 of the IPL 2016 playoffs, RCB will zoom into the final of the competition.
What the Gujarat Lions will hope and pray is that the top three of RCB – Chris Gayle, Kohli and De Villiers – do not have one of those days, when pretty much every ball either flies to the boundary or into the stands. Because if they do, and the fact that this match is at the Chinnaswamy Stadium, the best six-hitting ground in the IPL, the only way to compete, let alone win, will be if the likes of Brendon McCullum, Dwayne Smith, Suresh Raina and Aaron Finch find their man-that-is-awesome form as well.
At the end of the day, this Qualifier 1 looks like being a match between the two power-packed batsmen. But, the problem is, if it comes to a straight up fight between the two batting units, RCB, who also have Shane Watson and an in-form KL Rahul, will win it nine times out of ten.
The way Kohli is batting at the moment, it feels more like 10/10, because the skipper has been flawless, and as a result so have RCB. Needing to win all four of their last four matches of the league stage, to move into the playoffs, RCB began their winning run with a bang, scoring 248 runs against the Gujarat Lions, with Kohli and De Villiers putting on what proved to be a world record partnership in all T20 cricket.
Then Gayle found some form as RCB tripped up KKR, before wins over KXIP and Delhi Daredevils confirmed their position in the top two of the IPL 2016 points table.
The constant in all those four wins – and pretty much the entire IPL season – has been Kohli and his ridiculous form with the willow. Imperious is a word that will seem as an understatement to describe Kohli's mood at the moment, and while Gayle and De Villiers' wickets are vital to GL's hopes of notching a win, the only way they will be able to move into the final at the first time of asking will be if they somehow get Kohli out early.
That is a lot easier said than done, as bowler after bowler, team after team, have felt the caressing wrath of Kohli in IPL 2016. RCB, whose bowling has also stepped up to the plate in the last four matches, will hope the captain delights the Bengaluru crowd, yet again, because if he does, fasten those seat belts, because we are in for an as-exciting-as-they-come ride.
IPL 2016 playoffs Qualifier 1 schedule: Gujarat Lions (GL) vs Royal Challengers Bangalore (RCB).
Date: Tuesday, May 24.
Time: 8 p.m. IST (3.30 p.m. BST, 10.30 a.m. ET).
Venue: Chinnaswamy Stadium in Bengaluru.
TV listings: India: Sony Six, Sony Six HD, Sony ESPN, Sony ESPN HD, Sony Max. Middle East and North Africa: OSN Sports Cricket. USA: ESPN. Canada: Sportsnet. UK: Sky Sports. South Africa: SuperSport. International (Rest of the world): Cricketgateway (Online).