There's a sense of deja vu as Royal Challengers meet Rajasthan Royals, although the roles have reversed from last year. For one, this is a home game for Royal Challengers. As things stand, it could be they who snap the thread by which the visitors' playoff hopes hang. Not that Royal Challengers don't stand a mathematical chance of qualifying themselves, but it'd require the kind of miracle that's more suitable for fantasy fiction.
Royals are coming off back-to-back wins, the first time they have been able to do so all tournament, and encouragingly, they have achieved this without Jos Buttler (both games), Ben Stokes and Jofra Archer (both didn't feature in the second win). The loss of Steven Smith's leadership is nigh, but not just yet. Their power and touch players alike should enjoy the true surface in Bengaluru, quick bowlers Oshane Thomas and Varun Aaron may not detest it either, and Shreyas Gopal should feel at home. However, they can't afford leaking runs through sloppy fielding as they did against Sunrisers at home, and despite a player-of-the-match performance last match, Jaydev Unadkat's dependence on cutters could be tested here.
What Royals need is two straight wins; over a team that's virtually out of contention and perhaps as a result with less to play for, and then over Delhi Capitals, who might have their guard down having already qualified for the playoffs. They shouldn't expect any favours from either team, and will also need to keep an eye on their net run rate, should they end up tied on 14 points with other contenders.
Of course, Royals' best-case scenario would be to win both matches, and to hope that Sunrisers, Kings XI and Knight Riders all finish on 12 points each, rendering net run-rates irrelevant.
Both teams came into the contest winless and it was Royals who had points on the table at the end of it, as Shreyas Gopal spun a web around the Royal Challengers batting line-up. With healthy contributions from their top four, Royals, chasing 159, got over the line with one ball to spare.
Royal Challengers Bangalore: 1 Virat Kohli (capt), 2 Parthiv Patel (wk), 3 AB de Villiers, 4 Heinrich Klaasen/Shimron Hetmyer, 5 Shivam Dube, 6 Marcus Stoinis, 7 Gurkeerat Singh, 8 Washington Sundar, 9 Umesh Yadav, 10 Yurzvendra Chahal, 11 Navdeep Saini
Rajasthan Royals: 1 Ajinkya Rahane, 2 Liam Livingstone, 3 Steven Smith (capt), 4 Sanju Samson (wk), 5 Ashton Turner, 6 Riyan Parag, 7 Stuart Binny, 8 Shreyas Gopal, 9 Jaydev Unadkat, 10 Varun Aaron, 11 Oshane Thomas
Marcus Stoinis' demotion to No. 7 in the match against Delhi Capitals was surprising and arguably impacted the eventual outcome. He averages 71 and has a strike rate of 154 at No. 4 this year, his best in any position. He also finds the boundary once every four balls in this position. Royal Challengers would do well to elevate him.
Since IPL 2017, Sanju Samson has scored at his slowest against offspin and legspin with a strike-rate of 117. The frequency with which he finds the boundary against these two types of bowling is also his lowest at 12.1 and 9.8 respectively. This suggests that Royal Challengers could have the combination of Yuzvendra Chahal and Washington Sundar bowling to him in tandem.
Stats that matter
This will be Steven Smith's 50th match as captain in all T20s.
Yuzvendra Chahal needs two wickets to get to 100 in the IPL.
Virat Kohli needs one win to bring up 50 wins in the IPL as captain.
Ajinkya Rahane needs 14 runs for 5000 runs in T20s