Every game in the 2018 IPL's final double-header weekend will serve to clear up the mid-table clutter, starting with Rajasthan Royals v Royal Challengers Bangalore. With both teams scrapping for the final two playoff spots, a defeat for either will end their season. A win, however, doesn't guarantee anything, as they still need favours from other sides.
Royals have historically fared better in the big matches than RCB, who have a tendency to choke. It's one of the few areas available for Royals to try and exploit. Otherwise, RCB hold the edge over their opponents in almost every aspect. They have superior balance, greater firepower, more experience and a lot of good fortune. Not only did they beat Sunrisers Hyderabad on Thursday, but that evening was the only one in the past week that had no rain in Bengaluru.
Things have fallen in place for RCB lately. Not only have they stitched together a three-game winning streak, they have won the important moments and had new names come to the fore. Moeen Ali was handy with bat and ball in the last game, AB de Villiers is in sparkling form, Parthiv Patel has been belligerent in the Powerplay and Tim Southee has been brilliant with his yorkers at the death.
Royals are in an unenviable situation. The bulk of their success has rested on a few individuals, and now they head into a must-win without one of them. That Ajinkya Rahane, despite being their third-highest scorer, has hardly contributed to them winning, tells you something. Sanju Samson has been their best domestic talent, while Jofra Archer has been a lone ranger with the ball. However, the arrival of Ish Sodhi in the XI has added teeth to an attack that has largely been smashed around.
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With 548 runs, including five half-centuries, Jos Buttler was Royals' undisputed match-winner. His promotion to opener resulted in a tangible difference in Royals' Powerplay run-rate, which shot up from 7.61 - the worst among all teams - to 10.08 - the best among all teams. However, Royals cannot avail Buttler's services any longer as he has left for England's Test series against Pakistan. Buttler's England team-mate Ben Stokes is also gone. But Moeen Ali will remain with RCB as he was left out from the England Test squad.
RCB couldn't recover from a middle-overs slowdown as a 415-run slugfest ended with Rajasthan Royals defending 217 to win by 19 runs. Samson was the driving force with a six-laden 92 not out, before Shreyas Gopal took 2 for 22 on his home ground to snuff out the RCB chase.
If RCB beat Royals by a big margin and go above Mumbai Indians, they have to hope Mumbai lose to Delhi Daredevils or win by a margin that does not go above RCB's net run-rate. They also need Kolkata Knight Riders lose to Sunrisers Hyderabad. If KKR beat Sunrisers, it would leave only one spot open. If RCB win, Royals are out.
If Royals beat RCB, then RCB are out, but Royals are not guaranteed a spot as they need Mumbai to lose to Daredevils and Punjab to lose to Chennai Super Kings.
Rajasthan Royals: 1 Rahul Tripathi, 2 D'Arcy Short, 3 Ajinkya Rahane (capt), 4 Sanju Samson, 5 Heinrich Klaasen, 6 Stuart Binny, 7 K Gowtham, 8 Jaydev Unadkat, 9 Ish Sodhi, 10 Jofra Archer, 11 Anureet Singh
Royal Challengers Bangalore: 1 Parthiv Patel (wk), 2 Virat Kohli (capt), 3 AB de Villiers, 4 Moeen Ali, 5 Colin de Grandhomme, 6 Mandeep Singh, 7 Sarfaraz Khan, 8 Tim Southee, 9 Umesh Yadav, 10 Mohammed Siraj, 11 Yuzvendra Chahal
Samson has been one of Royals' most reliable performers, so sending him back early would be key for RCB. In order to do that, RCB might let Chahal have a go at Samson early. Samson scores freely against the likes of Umesh and Mohammed Siraj in T20s. But against Chahal he has 23 runs in 27 balls and has fallen to him twice in five games.
Sodhi could be Royals' answer against RCB's batting. RCB's top order has, at best, had a mixed record against legspinners this IPL. De Villiers has taken them for 99 runs in 67 balls but also lost his wicket to them four times in eight innings. Parthiv has faced only one over of legspin and scored five runs and lost his wicket. And Virat Kohli has 79 runs off 70 balls for four dismissals in nine innings. Kohli's individual record against Sodhi isn't great either. In 14 balls, he's scored 19 runs and been dismissed twice.
Stats that matter
Head to head: both teams are at a stalemate, with eight victories in 17 IPL matches.
Yuzvendra Chahal is the only bowler in the RCB attack that Heinrich Klaasen has faced in T20s. And his record is dominant: 41 runs in 12 balls.
Umesh has been excellent in the Powerplay in IPL 2018. He has 13 wickets and goes at 6.75 an over. However, his record against Rahul Tripathi, who is Royals' opener and thus will bat in the Powerplay, isn't too favourable. Off the 17 balls he has faced from Umesh, Tripathi has slammed 39 runs without being dismissed.
Kohli has a stuttering record in Jaipur. In five IPL matches at the venue, he has 104 runs with a top score of 39 not out.
Sodhi is likely to be Royals' MVP. He has given away just 89 runs in 15 overs this season and has an average of 22.25 alongside four wickets. Like Sodhi, the legspinner from the opposition camp, Chahal, is also likely to play a prominent role in the game. Chahal has a superlative record in Jaipur, with eight wickets at an average of 13.50 and economy rate of 5.90. He also strikes once every 13.60 balls.