1.52pm It’s Srikar Bharat’s birthday today. Wonder where he will bat today. It will depend on how much the opening partnership brings. Here they are: Kohli takes strike, Padikkal at the other end. Aiden Markram has the ball.
Elsewhere, India’s top shooter Manu Bhaker has more than made up for her disappointment at the Olympics by winning three golds already at the Junior World Championship. Read more here.
What will KL Rahul’s contribution be today? He has a Bradman-esque average against Royal Challengers Bangalore. He has scored 284 runs against RCB without being dismissed.
1.30 pm RCB win the toss and will bat. Kohli expects the pitch to slow down as the match progresses. No changes to the RCB XI. KL Rahul says he would have wanted to bowl. Three changes – Fabian Allen, Deepak Hooda, Nathan Ellis are out. In place of them, we will have Harpreet Brar, Sarfaraz Khan and Moises Henriques.
Royal Challengers Bangalore: 1 Virat Kohli (capt), 2 Devdutt Padikkal, 3 Srikar Bharat (wk), 4 Glenn Maxwell, 5 AB de Villiers, 6 Dan Christian, 7 Shahbaz Ahmed, 8 George Garton, 9 Harshal Patel, 10 Mohammed Siraj, 11 Yuzvendra Chahal
Punjab Kings: 1 KL Rahul (capt & wk), 2 Mayank Agarwal, 3 Aiden Markram, 4 Nicholas Pooran, 5 Sarfaraz Khan, 6 Shahrukh Khan, 7 Moises Henriques, 8 Harpreet Brar, 9 Ravi Bishnoi, 10 Mohammed Shami, 11 Arshdeep Singh
On that note, let’s say hello for the first time today to Sreshth Shah. I do believe he has a bit of a quandary about which team to back today. Let him get in here and explain further.
Sandaru Herath: “Wanidu Hasaranga will be a good option for RCB in this deck! Playing 3 spinners will not be a bad option eventually considering the batting depth he brings!” — Would not be a bad choice. Though Delhi Capitals showed yesterday that you can do a lot on this wicket with quality fast bowling.
CricDude: “The PBKS coach and management is getting lot of flak in the social media but I feel they are doing a good job. When they promoted Arshdeep last year and Harpreet this year, lot of people including me were surprised by their inclusion ahead of some other names. A couple of decisions and a lil smart cricket by the players in the middle would have put the team in a different position in the table. But the average fans need instant results” — Is that you, Gaurav Sundararaman?
Puneeth: “Hi Deb, How is the weather over there in Sharjah..? just south over here in Oman we are facing a cyclone and so no TV signals too, Hope the weather doesn’t disrupt the match.” — Balaji says the same thing. There’s not a patch of cloud in the sky as of now. So we can hope that the rain stays away. But it does bring back memories of walking through knee-high water en route Sharjah stadium alongside my co-commentator David Townsend ahead of this particular match in 2013.
1.12 pm About 18 minutes to the toss. In case you want some ESPNcricinfo expertise to help finalize your fantasy teams for today, here are our recommendations.
Shahrukh Khan also had a chat with the broadcasters: “We don’t know why we are taking games to the last ball. We have just focused on now finishing games in the 19th over if we are batting second. The last game has hopefully broken the jinx of going to the last ball. (On his role) I play according to the situations. It’s the same plan here. When a number six comes in to bat, the situation varies, and I just look to play accordingly. (Between the first leg and second leg) I was still practising well. I got a chance in the last match. My plan was to look for boundaries as and when I could. We have to take it one game at a time. This is our first afternoon game, and we have to execute what we have planned in our meetings.”
Not just a Super Sunday at the IPL, there’s also the final stages of the Carrara Test between Australia and India. India have a substantial lead now, and one wonders if they will be tempted to give Australia a chance to have a go at the target soon.
Jeyarama Balan : “As a cricket fan, I want Punjab Kings to win this match to keep the competition more interesting. No offense to Aashish :-)”
Aashish Sapkota: “Took leave from work to watch this match. Come on RCB!” — I have just been informed by a very passionate RCB supporter that Punjab is considered a bit of a bogey team for them. I hope for your sake that this person is wrong!
RCB’s batting consultant Sanjay Bangar had some interesting insights during an interview with the broadcasters a short while ago: “We have a good combination, and with depth. With Virat opening, AB has been the designated finisher. Maxwell has done a great job in the middle order, and Bharat has allowed us to consolidate at three and to attack the spinners. There could be changes in tactics if the conditions vary. More or less, this is what is settled and has worked for us well. The key is for batters to have clarity about their roles.”
The broadcasters had Matthew Hayden on the pitch report a short while ago. He expects another low-scoring battle of attrition on the Sharjah wicket. A couple of interesting stats he pointed out: 43 percent of wickets for seamers have been with slower balls here in Sharjah this season. Short balls have accounted for 44 percent of those.
12:45 pm Hello and welcome to what is effectively the final double-header Sunday of IPL 2021. Don’t believe me – just check the schedule out. We have a double-header yet again this weekend, and we start under the distinctive canopy of the Sharjah cricket stadium. Royal Challengers Bangalore need just one win in their final three matches to ensure their place in the playoffs, but Punjab Kings need to keep winning to keep themselves in the hunt. Both power-packed batting lineups, but they may have to invent new ways of eking together competitive scores on what has been a really sluggish batting surface. I’m Debayan Sen, and Sreshth Shah joins me later on commentary. For the moment, here’s Varun Shetty’s preview.