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Can RCB or Royals find top gear?

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Agarkar: RCB need to consider McCullum's spot (4:04)

Who should take the field in Bengaluru on Sunday? James Faulkner and Ajit Agarkar make their picks (4:04)

Big Picture

The IPL is a long tournament in terms of just how many matches there are, but it's also a short one in terms of the length of time those matches are squeezed into. Form, personal and collective, can therefore begin to snowball before you even realise it, and minor areas of concern can turn into season-destroying weaknesses.

Royal Challengers Bangalore and Rajasthan Royals have each played two games, losing one and winning the other, and neither team has really clicked into gear yet. RCB's middle order and sixth-bowling option remain worries, despite their having assembled a squad that should, in theory, contain solutions to both issues. Royals' Indian bowling contingent looks less than frightening, and it remains to be seen if their batting order truly makes best use of their best players. Big-name players from both sides are yet to find their best form too.

A sense of unsettledness, therefore, hovers over both teams, and where they finish on the league table could well depend on how quickly they banish it.

In the news

Jofra Archer, who missed much of the PSL with a side strain, is yet to feature for Royals. He only arrived in India on the eve of their second match, against Delhi Daredevils on Wednesday, but the three-day gap between the two games could possibly have given him enough time to gain full fitness. On the eve of the game, Archer was one of only two people along with Ben Stokes to both bat and bowl in the nets. If Archer does make Royals' XI, he will most likely come in for the Australian seamer Ben Laughlin.

Stokes, who has bowled only two overs in two games to begin the IPL, bowled for over 45 minutes, dispelling concerns over how his back is holding up.

Big hitting South African batsman and wicketkeeper Heinrich Klaasen, who is yet to play this season, also had a bat in the nets.

The likely XIs

Royal Challengers Bangalore: 1 Quinton de Kock (wk), 2 Brendon McCullum, 3 Virat Kohli (capt), 4 AB de Villiers, 5 Sarfaraz Khan, 6 Mandeep Singh, 7 Chris Woakes, 8 Washington Sundar, 9 Umesh Yadav, 10 Kulwant Khejroliya, 11 Yuzvendra Chahal

Rajasthan Royals: 1 Ajinkya Rahane (capt), 2 D'Arcy Short, 3 Sanju Samson, 4 Ben Stokes, 5 Rahul Tripathi, 6 Jos Buttler (wk), 7 K Gowtham, 8 Shreyas Gopal, 9 Dhawal Kulkarni, 10 Jaydev Unadkat, 11 Ben Laughlin/Jofra Archer

Stats that matter

  • In the three previous seasons of the IPL, Sanju Samson had a Smart Run Index of -3.71, which means he scored 3.71 runs less than the average batsman who came in to bat at a similar stage of the innings. He has made a much stronger start to this season, returning a Smart Run Index of 22.10 in his first two innings.

  • Ajinkya Rahane loves batting in Bengaluru in the IPL. In five innings here, he has scored 245 runs at an average of 61.3 and a strike rate of 145.8. That tally includes his only T20 hundred, an unbeaten 60-ball 103 in 2012.

  • Washington Sundar is one of eight bowlers with a Smart Economy Rate of less than 6 an over among those who have bowled 100 or more balls in the IPL since the start of the 2015 season. His traditional economy rate is 6.72 and his smart economy rate is 5.95.

  • AB de Villiers has only managed to score 13 off 15 balls against Ben Stokes across two T20 meetings so far.

  • Yuzvendra Chahal has taken 71 wickets for RCB, and needs two more to surpass Vinay Kumar and become their all-time leading wicket-taker.

Strategy punt

In RCB's last match against Kings XI Punjab, Virat Kohli did not bowl any of his spinners during the Powerplay overs. That could change against Royals' openers. In all T20s, D'Arcy Short scores at 7.73 per over against spin and at 9.90 against pace. Ajinkya Rahane, meanwhile, scores at 6.92 against spin and 7.28 against pace, and has been out to Yuzvendra Chahal twice in three innings while scoring 17 off 18 balls against him.

Fantasy pick

D'Arcy Short has made a slightly freakish start to his IPL career, getting himself run out in his first two innings for Royals. He'll be keen to make amends, and he has the game to do so most spectacularly, having come into this tournament after top scoring in BBL 2017-18 at a Smart Strike Rate of 164.36. If either Tim Southee or Colin de Grandhomme play for RCB, they'd better watch out too: Short hammered a combined 54 off 22 balls against the two of them during the recent T20I tri-series featuring Australia, New Zealand and England.