Royal Challengers Bangalore will be looking to reach the IPL final for the first time since 2016 when they square off against Rajasthan Royals at the Motera Stadium in Ahmedabad in the eliminator. RCB beat the Lucknow Super Giants in the first playoff on Wednesday, with youngster Rajat Patidar turning out to be the unlikely hero with a stunning century as they beat KL Rahul’s men by fourteen runs. Victory here over Rajasthan will see them set up a final clash against league toppers Gujarat Titans.
Virat Kohli had a brilliant season in 2016- his 973 runs were key to RCB reaching the final against Sunrisers Hyderabad, which they eventually lost. Kohli hasn’t been his usual self in this tournament, but other players have stepped up for RCB- skipper Faf du Plessis, all rounder Glenn Maxwell, wicket-keeper batsman Dinesh Karthik, and most recently against Lucknow, Patidar. That depth augurs well for RCB, with Rajasthan seemingly very reliant on England opener Jos Buttler (the orange cap holder) and skipper Sanju Samson. The likes of Yashasvi Jaiswal, Devdutt Paddikal and Shimron Hetmyer haven’t been as consistent as RR would’ve liked them to be.
Rajasthan do have two fantastic spinners in Yuzvendra Chahal and Ravi Ashwin in their ranks, and the likes of Crictips reckon that Chahal, a former RCB player himself, could have a big say in this semi-final. Bangalore, on the other hand, have Wanindu Hasaranga in their ranks, with the Sri Lankan (25 wickets) and Chahal (26 wickets) locked in a tight battle for the purple cap.
Bangalore’s death bowling was excellent and won them the eliminator against Lucknow. LSG needed 35 off 3 overs but struggled against the ever reliable Harshal Patel and Australian pacer Josh Hazlewood. Rajasthan however have big problems in that department- Gujarat needed 34 off 3 and eventually 16 off the last over, but Prasidh Krishna bowled three terrible deliveries that were all dispatched over the rope by David Miller as the Titans progressed to the final.
Sanju Samson has had terrible luck with the toss- his 13 tosses lost is a record for an IPL season, and the Royals will be hoping that he can win it in this crunch game.
Rajasthan are unlikely to tinker with their lineup so deep into the tournament, even if skipper Samson would probably like the flexibility of another all-rounder. Their bowlers were very inconsistent against Gujarat– Prasidh, Ashwin, Obed McCoy and even Trent Boult all had at least one over where they were taken to the cleaners, and that made it impossible for RR to have a spell of sustained bowling pressure against the Titans.
What happened when they met previously this season in the IPL?
In the first one, a stunning display of batting from Dinesh Karthik and Shahbaz Ahmed saw RCB, who needed 82 off the last seven after being 88/5 in 13 overs, win with five deliveries to spare. That was also the first time the Royals had been beaten in the IPL this season.
In the second one, Riyan Parag’s half century proved to be the difference on a pitch that had a lot for the bowlers, with RR prevailing by 29 runs. That knock was Parag’s best of the tournament- his returns have been otherwise meagre, and he will be hoping to step up again if his team requires him.