Contention for the playoffs has gone right down to the wire as teams continue to compete for a spot well into the last few matches before the eliminators. The double-header presents two crucial games for all teams involved. The first one is between there Rajasthan Royals and the Royal Challengers Bangalore, both of whom are stuck on 12 points and desperately need to win this game.
Neither team is assured a place in the playoffs should they win, their destiny rests in the hands of results from the next few games. However, both teams have been playing some good cricket, and stand an equal chance of qualifying. Which team will get to 14 points first, and place one foot in the playoffs?
Royal Challengers Bangalore
Virat Kohli (c), AB de Villiers, Sarfaraz Khan, Brendon McCullum, Chris Woakes, Colin de Grandhomme, Moeen Ali, Quinton de Kock, Umesh Yadav, Yuzvendra Chahal, Manan Vohra, Kulwant Khejroliya, Aniket Choudhary, Navdeep Saini, Murugan Ashwin, Mandeep Singh, Washington Sundar, Pawan Negi, Mohammed Siraj, Parthiv Patel, Aniruddha Joshi, Pavan Deshpande, Tim Southee, Corey Anderson.
Ben Stokes, Stuart Binny, Sanju Samson, Jos Buttler, Rahul Tripathi, D'Arcy Short, Krishnappa Gowtham, Jofra Archer, Dhawal Kulkarni, Jaydev Unadkat, Ankit Sharma, Anureet Singh, Shreyas Gopal, Prashant Chopra, Sudhesan Midhun, Ben Laughlin, Mahipal Lomror, Aryaman Birla, Jatin Saxena, Dushmantha Chameera, Ajinkya Rahane (c), Heinrich Klaasen, Ish Sodhi.
Where the team's stand
Royal Challengers Bangalore
The Challengers will be very relieved to win their game against SRH, and are well on their way with the second best net run-rate of all teams who have not qualified thus far. Moeen Ali’s batting in the last match is a huge boost ahead of their most important game of the year. AB too is in red-hot form. If Kohli can step up and lead from the front, this could be their day. RR do not have the best record at the Sawai Mansingh Stadium this year, and RCB can capitalise on it in such a crunch situation. With Sarfaraz and Colin de Grandhomme coming into their own down the order, RCB has a great chance of completing the unlikeliest of returns.
RCBs bowlers will be wary of Buttler at the top of the order. The attack has been quite expensive throughout the tournament, conceding 200 in the last game too. Umesh Yadav’s brilliance has kept them afloat on many an occasion, and he will need to produce those beautiful swingers once again to keep RR at bay. Chahal too has been economical, while Southee has hit the right lengths to maintain pressure on opposition batsmen at key stages of the match. Yet, RCB have a tendency to be expensive, and the only way they can lose this is if they let RRs batsmen get away with scoring too many.
Fantasy Picks: Kohli, AB, Moeen, Umesh, and Chahal are five obvious picks from RCB.The first two simply cannot be overlooked, while Umesh and Chahal have consistently troubled the opposition batsmen this season. Moeen has received a lot of credit for his batting in the last game, but he has also been economical with the ball.
RR simply collapsed after Buttler’s dismissal against KKR, a predictable outcome for a team so heavily dependent on one batsman. Rahane has failed to get going despite taking his time on the crease, Stokes has been a huge concern throughout, and Samson has been highly inconsistent as well. Promoting Tripathi to the top of the order gives RR a strong opening combination a la KXIP, but the middle order has been far too brittle. Buttler has single-handedly taken them to victory in far too matches, and a failure from him could well end RRs chances of qualifying.
Jofra Archer and Ben Stokes have added some teeth to the RR bowling, but the rest of them have been expensive enough to neutralise their efforts. Stokes in particular needs to be utilised better and earlier in the innings to get the maximum out of him, while Archer has to be the one to give RR the early breakthroughs they so desperately will need. Shreyas Gopal and Krishnappa Gowtham have been inconsistent, but even they have shown signs of quality. RR have the bowlers to restrict RCB at home, but it will be up to Rahane to utilise them in the most efficient manner and get his team the result.
Fantasy Picks: Buttler, Samson, Archer and Stokes are worth picking from RR. Buttler needs no justification, while Stokes has been good enough with the ball to pick him just for this. Any runs he scores are a bonus. Samson has looked the best batsmen of the team after Buttler, while Archer is RRs best bowler by far.
RCB win. RRs over-dependence on Buttler hurt them against KKR, and it is bound to hurt them again.
Can The Royals overcome their reliance on Jos Buttler with a win over the Royal Challengers? Let us know in the comments and poll below.