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RESULT
Eliminator (N), Ahmedabad, May 22, 2024, Indian Premier League

RR won by 4 wickets (with 6 balls remaining)

Player Of The Match
2/19
ravichandran-ashwin
Cricinfo's MVP
94.25 ptsImpact List
ravichandran-ashwin
Preview

Form vs funk in RCB vs RR winner-takes-all rumble

After completely opposite runs to the playoffs, the momentum is very much on RCB's side as they take on an out-of-sorts Royals

George Binoy
George Binoy
21-May-2024

Match details

Rajasthan Royals (RR) vs Royal Challengers Bengaluru (RCB), Eliminator
Ahmedabad, 1930 IST (1400 GMT)

Big picture: No second chances

On April 21, Royal Challengers Bengaluru (RCB) lost a 200-plus chase to Kolkata Knight Riders (KKR) by one run, their seventh defeat in eight games, leaving them last in the league. As a familiar feeling of despondency shrouded their season, ESPNcricinfo outlined how they still had a chance, improbable though it was.
Since then, RCB have had a resurrection, the kind of turnaround that has been prime material for inspirational screenplays about sports teams coming back from the abyss. RCB didn't just win six in a row; they won by massive margins of 35 runs, 24 balls to spare, 38 balls to spare, 60 runs, 47 runs, and by 27 runs to improve their net run-rate and rise above three other teams on the same points as them, to make a dramatic last-minute dash into the playoffs.
A couple of days after RCB had begun their revival, Rajasthan Royals (RR) cruised to their eighth win in nine games. They had owned No. 1 for weeks and were favourites to finish there. There was absolutely no sign of what was to come.
The fall began insidiously, a one-run defeat in a 200-plus chase, a 20-run defeat in another 200-plus chase, both results so easily attributed to the vagaries of T20 cricket. Even when their batters were muzzled on a slow pitch in Chennai, their captain Sanju Samson didn't think they were playing bad cricket. But when it happened again in Guwahati, there was no denying their "failures". Despite losing four in a row, though, and having their final league game washed out, RR would have still finished No. 2 had Sunrisers Hyderabad (SRH) not won their last game. That's how strong a safety net they had built with all those early wins. It wasn't strong enough, however, to give them a second chance of making the final.
The value of confidence and momentum in sport is impossible to measure. RCB and RR's unexpected rise and fall are examples of how unpredictable T20 cricket can be. But in addition to intangibles like confidence and momentum, there's also experience. RR go into the Eliminator with no experience of playing a high-pressure, knockout game this season. RCB, on the other hand, have qualified for the Eliminator having played, and won, six eliminators already.

Form guide

Rajasthan Royals LLLLW (last five completed matches, most recent first)
Royal Challengers Bengaluru WWWWW

Previous meeting: Buttler's ton trumps Kohli's ton

It was RR's fourth win in four games, and RCB's fourth defeat in five games. Virat Kohli scored 113 off 72 balls in Jaipur - equalling the record for the slowest IPL century - though he has sped up enormously since. The rest of RCB's batters didn't do much - that's also changed since - and they finished with 183 for 3. Jos Buttler led RR's successful chase with a hundred, but they don't have him anymore, while Samson made 69 off 42 balls. He's passed 20 only once in his last four innings.

Team news and Impact Player strategy

Royal Challengers Bengaluru
RCB brought Glenn Maxwell back into the XI for their previous game against Chennai Super Kings (CSK) after Will Jacks returned to England, and he scored 16 off 5 balls and took a wicket with the first delivery of the defence on his way to figures of 1 for 25 in four overs. Expect them to be unchanged, with one of Rajat Patidar and left-arm spinner Swapnil Singh starting in the XI and the other coming in as Impact Player depending on whether they bat or bowl first.
Likely XII: 1 Virat Kohli, 2 Faf du Plessis (capt), 3 Rajat Patidar, 4 Cameron Green, 5 Glenn Maxwell, 6 Dinesh Karthik (wk), 7 Mahipal Lomror, 8 Swapnil Singh, 9 Karn Sharma, 10 Lockie Ferguson, 11 Yash Dayal, 12 Mohammed Siraj
Rajasthan Royals
RR won the toss in both their previous full games but lost after making sub-par totals. Are they batting first to make the most of their Impact Player strategy: six batters and five bowlers in a batting first XI gives them the option of a sixth specialist bowler for the chase if they don't need to bring in an extra batter in the first innings. If they choose to field with six specialist bowlers in the starting XI, they leave themselves with only six specialist batters for the chase. In Chennai, they swapped out Dhruv Jurel for fast bowler Nandre Burger after the first innings. Against Punjab Kings (PBKS) in Guwahati, however, they brought in Donovan Ferreira as an extra batter in the first innings because of a collapse.
While Shimron Hetmyer, who hasn't played since May 2 because of injury, was reported to be fit for RR's last league fixture, he was not named in the starting XI or the subs' bench for the seven-over contest that was eventually washed out before a ball was bowled. If he is fit for the Eliminator, he could come in for either Rovman Powell or Ferreira.
Likely XII: 1 Yashasvi Jaiswal, 2 Tom Kohler-Cadmore, 3 Sanju Samson (capt & wk), 4 Riyan Parag, 5 Dhruv Jurel, 6 Shimron Hetmyer, 7 R Ashwin, 8 Trent Boult, 9 Avesh Khan, 10 Sandeep Sharma, 11 Yuzvendra Chahal, 12 Rovman Powell/Donovan Ferreira/Nandre Burger

In the spotlight: The difference between RCB and RR

The upshot of Kohli and Faf du Plessis' fast starts, Patidar's demolition of spin through the middle overs, and Cameron Green and Dinesh Karthik's finishing, is that RCB's run rate has jumped from 9.54 in the first half of the season to 11.03 in the second half, the best in that period. During their six-match winning streak, RCB have been scoring at a strike rate of 170 in the powerplay, 174 in the middle overs, and 199 at the death, and go into the Eliminator with nearly all of their batters in prime form.
Their bowlers have complemented this surge in batting form by improving their collective economy rate from 10.70 (the worst in the league) in the first half of the season to 9.22 (second best) in the second half.
RR, on the other hand, have scored at a run rate of 9.07 in the second half of the season, which is the lowest among the ten teams. Their top four batters, who had a collective average of 50 and a strike rate of 153 in the first nine games, aren't as prolific anymore either. In their four successive defeats, that average has dropped to 31.66 and the strike rate is down to 133.42. Yashasvi Jaiswal has 32 runs in his last three innings, Samson 33 off 34 balls in his last two, and Buttler's replacement opener Tom Kohler-Cadmore made 18 off 23 in his only match ahead of the Eliminator. Only Riyan Parag has remained in form, and RR will hope he gets support above and below him in the batting order.

Stats that matter

  • Sandeep Sharma was injured and did not play the only RR-RCB fixture this season, where Kohli made that unbeaten hundred. He's got Kohli out seven times in 15 T20s while conceding only 87 off 67 balls.
  • Kohli has a powerplay strike rate of 187 in his last eight innings, which has raised his overall strike rate in the first six overs to 162 this season, his best in any IPL.
  • Yash Dayal had been playing a crucial part in RCB's revival long before he denied CSK in that thrilling final over in Bengaluru. He's taken eight wickets in their six successive wins with an economy of only 7.78, which is sensational considering he bowls at the death. Dayal has a good match up against Jaiswal in T20s: 11 runs off 12 balls for two dismissals.

Pitch and conditions

The pitch for the Eliminator is the strip on which Gujarat Titans scored 231 for 3 against CSK and won by 35 runs on May 10. There is no rain forecast in Ahmedabad on Wednesday and it's likely to be extremely hot, with day time temperatures of 40-45°C reducing to only between 30-35°C in the evening. Whether there is dew or not will depend on the gulf between the day and night temperatures.
The range of scores also vary significantly depending on the surface. There was only one match with 175-plus scores in the first four league matches in Ahmedabad, but the last two league games had scores of 200 for 3, 206 for 1 (RCB), 231 for 3 and 196 for 8. RR have not played a game in Ahmedabad this season.

Quotes

"When you are getting to the business end of the season, you need someone to raise their finger up and say, 'I am going to win the game for the team'. Yes, this is a team sport, but we have a lot of match-winners in the side, and we need individuals to step up."
Sanju Samson after RR suffered a fourth consecutive defeat
"When we get on that flight to Ahmedabad, we have a job to do. We have it within our grasp to do something that people will remember us for many decades. It will be a journey where people will say, 'wow, that RCB team was special.'"
Dinesh Karthik after RCB qualified for the playoffs

George Binoy is a deputy editor at ESPNcricinfo

Language
English
Win Probability
RR 100%
RCBRR
100%50%100%RCB InningsRR Innings

Over 19 • RR 174/6

RR won by 4 wickets (with 6 balls remaining)
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Indian Premier League

TEAMMWLPTNRR
KKR1493201.428
SRH1485170.414
RR1485170.273
RCB1477140.459
CSK1477140.392
DC147714-0.377
LSG147714-0.667
GT145712-1.063
PBKS145910-0.353
MI144108-0.318