It's not just cricket anymore. It's mathematics.
At the core of it all, the equation for Punjab Kings is pretty simple
- they need to win their remaining games to stay in with a chance of making the playoffs. As for Royal Challengers Bangalore, they are already in the top four with 14 points, but their poor net run rate leaves them with less room to work with. They still need two wins to be assured of qualification.
In the IPL, Royal Challengers' captain Faf du Plessis has not scored more runs against any other team than Punjab Kings; he has 702 runs in 13 innings
against Kings and the next best is his 432 in 14 innings against Kolkata Knight Riders. True to the numbers, du Plessis hit a stroke-filled 88 against Kings earlier this season
. As the season has progressed, Royal Challengers have fitted their jigsaw puzzle better.
In their last game against Sunrisers Hyderabad
, four of the top five batters scored 30 or more while their bowlers, led by Josh Hazlewood, put on a clinical show. One of the key players in the past few games, the usual suspects aside, has been Rajat Patidar
, who was brought in belatedly as a replacement player.
Patidar is fourth among the Royal Challengers players in terms of player rating score as per ESPNcricinfo's MVP ratings, among those who have played a minimum of four matches this season, after Glenn Maxwell, Wanindu Hasaranga and Hazlewood. In fact, Patidar's batting impact score of 39.75 is the best for his side - tenth overall, closely followed by Dinesh Karthik's 34.96.
Their opponents, Kings, are yet again hovering in the lower half of the table
after having a strong start. They are returning after a five-day break, having lost against Rajasthan Royals in their last outing
. Jonny Bairstow's promotion to the top of the order seems to have done him good and with Jitesh Sharma
finding his feet lower down, Kings would be confident of putting up a good show, irrespective of whether they are batting first or chasing.
However, with an economy rate of 8.65 this season, Punjab Kings have been the second-most expensive bowling side behind Mumbai Indians and how they use Kagiso Rabada and Arshdeep Singh, two of their key bowlers, could well dictate how the contest flows.
Royal Challengers Bangalore: 1 Faf du Plessis (capt), 2 Virat Kohli, 3 Rajat Patidar, 4 Glenn Maxwell, 5 Shahbaz Ahmed, 6 Mahipal Lomror, 7 Dinesh Karthik (wk), 8 Wanindu Hasaranga, 9 Harshal Patel, 10 Mohammed Siraj, 11 Josh Hazlewood
Punjab Kings: 1 Jonny Bairstow, 2 Shikhar Dhawan, 3 Mayank Agarwal (capt), 4 Bhanuka Rajapaksa, 5 Liam Livingstone, 6 Jitesh Sharma (wk), 7 Rishi Dhawan, 8 Rahul Chahar, 9 Kagiso Rabada, 10 Arshdeep Singh, 11 Sandeep Sharma