A botched chase against a deflated Sunrisers Hyderabad team on Wednesday meant Royal Challengers Bangalore will not be able to finish in the top two this season. A result like that could prove to be an inflection point in a team's season because the difference between finishing in the top two and the next two is so stark in the IPL.
Royal Challengers will now have to be perfect in two matches in the playoffs just to make the final. Before that, they will have a dead rubber against Delhi Capitals to finalise their combination and regain their lost confidence while chasing a total.
With 20 points in 13 matches, Delhi Capitals are assured of a spot in the top two, deserved reward for their consistency this season. There are still a few points to sort out ahead of the playoffs, including the form of Shreyas Iyer and the health of Marcus Stoinis. The latter is especially crucial for Capitals after recent evidence of a faltering middle order.
In the previous match against Chennai Super Kings, Capitals collapsed from 71 for 2 to 99 for 6 in the space of 37 balls. Capitals' spinners have been effective in the UAE leg of this season, using subtle changes in pace and length to rack up dot balls. Their batters have also been unable to counter that same control in the middle overs from opposition spinners. That seems to be Capitals' only weakness in an otherwise settled line-up.
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George Garton's lines were errant against Sunrisers. He finished with 1 for 29 in two overs, the only bowler to have an economy rate of over 10 on a slow pitch. Royal Challengers have options for that No. 8 slot, including legspinner Wanindu Hasaranga and fast bowler Kyle Jamieson. It might make prudent sense to bring in a horses-for-courses bowler that they expect to play in the eliminator in Sharjah on Monday. At this point, that seems like Hasaranga.
The only question for Capitals is the fitness of Stoinis. If he is fit, he should slot right back into No. 5 come the playoffs.
Royal Challengers Bangalore (probable): 1 Virat Kohli (capt), 2 Devdutt Paddikal, 3 Srikar Bharat (wk), 4 Glenn Maxwell, 5 AB de Villiers, 6 Dan Christian, 7 Shahbaz Ahmed, 8 Wanindu Hasaranga, 9 Harshal Patel, 10 Yuzvendra Chahal, 11 Mohammed Siraj
Delhi Capitals (probable): 1 Prithvi Shaw, 2 Shikhar Dhawan, 3 Shreyas Iyer, 4 Rishabh Pant (capt & wk), 5 Ripal Patel, 6 Shimron Hetmyer, 7 Axar Patel, 8 R Ashwin, 9 Kagiso Rabada, 10 Avesh Khan, 11 Anrich Nortje
Glenn Maxwell has been at his destructive best against spin this season. Part of his success is down to his form. His template has been to give himself a few balls at the start but after he gets accustomed to the pace, or lack of, he has been using reverse or switch shots to force spinners off their lines. He has scored 237 runs at an average of 59.3 against spin and a strike rate of 163 with a boundary every 4.8 balls this season. It is a fairly logical strategic choice to hold back the raw pace of Kagiso Rabada and Anrich Nortje for Maxwell.
Royal Challengers could utilise Daniel Christian and Maxwell to fill up the quota of the fifth bowler. That will allow them to play an additional batter, and more importantly, allow de Villiers the freedom to bat higher up the order instead of as a specialist finisher.