Wednesday, May 20, 2015
Start time 2000 local (1430 GMT)
O'Brien: Royals' big players not having the best IPL
After having crisscrossed a vast country to play 14 games each in less than six weeks, it comes down to one match for Rajasthan Royals and Royal Challengers Bangalore. The loser will be out of the tournament. The winner will stay on and make another long journey, from Pune to Ranchi, to meet either Chennai Super Kings or Mumbai Indians in one more knockout clash.
There is little to separate Royals and Royal Challengers on the surface. Both have had the same number of wins and losses in the league stage. Both have had their campaigns affected by rain; Royal Challengers have suffered more on that count, with rain playing a role in as many as five of their matches. Both rely considerably on their top orders - Ajinkya Rahane, Shane Watson and Steven Smith for Royals, Chris Gayle, Virat Kohli and AB de Villiers for Royal Challengers.
Both would want those top orders to fire once more, but in case that does not happen, Royals can count on a middle order that has been more productive than Royal Challengers' has. Royal Challengers make up for that on the bowling front, with an attack that has consistently picked up wickets, led by the incisive Mitchell Starc.
As far as momentum goes, Royal Challengers are clearly ahead, with six wins in their last eight completed matches, compared to Royals' two from their last seven.
Royals, though, will have the advantage of having played in Pune earlier this season, when an all-round performance from James Faulkner helped them beat Kings XI Punjab by 26 runs. The last time Royal Challengers played at the venue was more than two years ago.
Rajasthan Royals WLLWL (last five matches, most recent first) Royal Challengers Bangalore WLWWL
The teams are split at 7-7 overall in the IPL, with one no-result. That came in Bangalore this season after Royal Challengers had piled up 200 for 7 and rain prevented the Royals chase from even starting. Before that, Royals had suffered their first heavy defeat of the season in Ahmedabad, after being restricted to 130 for 9. Kohli and de Villiers hunted that down in 16.1 overs.
In the spotlight
Ajinkya Rahane has scored 498 runs this season with four half-centuries in 12 innings at a strike-rate of 133.15. Virat Kohli has made 481 with three fifties in 14 innings at 133.98. Just like the overall record of these two teams, these numbers are neck-and-neck, and go to highlight the importance of the two leading Indian batsmen in their respective line-ups.
Mitchell Starc has transformed Royal Challengers from a top-heavy batting side to one that can strike and contain with the new ball as well as at the death. Chris Morris may not have taken as many wickets as Starc has, but he has been equally hard to get away and his nagging bounce has been a crucial asset for Royals too.
Royals have had a pretty settled XI through the season. The legspinner Pravin Tambe should come in for the left-arm seamer Brainder Sran.
Rajasthan Royals (probable) 1 Ajinkya Rahane, 2 Shane Watson, 3 Steven Smith (capt), 4 Sanju Samson (wk), 5 Karun Nair, 6 James Faulkner, 7 Chris Morris, 8 Deepak Hooda, 9 Stuart Binny, 10 Dhawal Kulkarni, 11 Pravin Tambe
Royal Challengers will have to decide who takes the final bowling spot in the XI.
Royal Challengers Bangalore (probable) 1 Chris Gayle, 2 Virat Kohli (capt), 3 AB de Villiers, 4 Mandeep Singh, 5 Dinesh Karthik (wk), 6 Sarfaraz Khan, 7 David Wiese, 8 Mitchell Starc, 9 Harshal Patel, 10 Yuzvendra Chahal, 11 S Aravind/Ashok Dinda
Pitch and conditions
Pune has been notorious for producing low and slow pitches making for dull cricket in previous seasons. The surface has played better this time, but none of the three games there has produced a total in excess of 170.
Stats and trivia
Royal Challengers took 86 wickets in the league stage, next to only Super Kings, despite fewer opportunities due to rain. Royals picked up 69 wickets, the least in the league stage
Royal Challengers have scored the quickest during the league stage at 9.4 runs an over. Royals are fourth at 8.53
Royal Challengers have a 2-0 record in Pune. Royals are 2-1 at the same venue
"I am very happy that we could make it this time. It was something that was much needed, especially after what happened in the last season. We were disappointed last year but it is good that we learned from our mistakes." Rajasthan Royals mentor Rahul Dravid on reaching the playoffs