Royal Challengers Bangalore will look to give their yet another forgettable IPL season some sense of respectability when they face a resurgent Rajasthan Royals outfit on Tuesday (April 30).
Languishing at seventh and eighth respectively on the points table, both Rajasthan and Bangalore have performed well below their pedigree. While Bangalore (8 points from 12 games) are out of the competition - barring miracles and plenty of them - Rajasthan (10 points from 12 games) have a faint chance of qualifying if they win their last two games. Even then they will have to rely on Chennai Super Kings, Mumbai Indians and Delhi Capitals defeat their respective opponents to make it through.
What will though be on Rajasthan's side is momentum. They are coming into this game with two solid wins on the bounce and will want to give their captain Steve Smith, who flies back to Australia after this game, a happy send-off.
The change in captaincy - replacing Ajinkya Rahane with Smith - has helped Rajasthan a great deal. With the burden off his shoulders, Rahane has looked much more fluent at the top of the order. Sanju Samson has also shown consistency while Liam Livingstone's quick-fire 44 in the last game against Sunrisers Hyderabad would have given Rajasthan confidence.
Smith too, after an indifferent start to the campaign, has looked fluent in his stroke play although how his injured elbow holds up remains to be seen. The biggest positives for Rajasthan have been Riyan Parag Das and Shreyas Gopal. Coming lower down the order, 17-year-old Riyan has shown immense level-headedness and maturity in two tough run-chases while Shreyas has already bamboozled some prominent names with his wrong'uns and leg-breaks.
Bangalore, like last season, have been left ruing the what-ifs as their playoff chance blew up in smoke with a crushing 16-run defeat at the hands of Delhi on Sunday. It has been a tough journey for them and to recover after six losses on the bounce at the start was always going to be tough.
They did make up following it with four wins in the next five games but lacked the collective spark which was so desperately needed. AB de Villiers and Virat Kohli have been the only ones scoring runs and while Parthiv Patel has given good starts, he has failed to convert them into a substantial score consistently. The under-performing middle order hasn't helped matters as well.
The biggest disappointment for the Bangalore unit has been their bowling. Moeen Ali, who has flown back to England, is the only one who has an economy rate of less than 7 this season with even Yuzvendra Chahal going at over eight runs per over. The likes of Umesh Yadav and Mohammed Siraj have been taken to the cleaners each time while the hugely impressive Navdeep Saini too has faltered at the death.
With just two matches to go and both on their home ground, Bangalore will hope to finish on a high and give their fans something to cheer about.
Shreyas spun his magic returning impeccable figures of 3/12 in his four overs to restrict Bangalore to 158/4. Jos Buttler then carved a quick half-century to take Rajasthan to a comfortable seven-wicket win.
PLAYERS TO WATCH OUT FOR
Virat Kohli: The Bangalore captain has been visibly hurting after yet another no-show from his side. He has repeatedly said how much playing for Bangalore means to him and with just two more games to go will want to give his absolute best in front of the home crowd.
Shreyas Gopal: He was the wrecker-in-chief the last time these two sides met getting rid of both Kohli and de Villiers with googlies. Having played all his life at M Chinnaswamy Stadium for Karnataka, Shreyas knows the ins and outs of the surface here and will want to unleash his bag of tricks once again.
Bangalore: The hosts could get in left-arm pacer Kulwant Khejroliya into the side replacing the under-performing Umesh Yadav while Heinrich Klaasen could also make way for Shimron Hetmyer
Rajasthan: Rajasthan will not be too keen on tinkering with a winning combination.
Bangalore: Parthiv Patel(w), Virat Kohli(c), AB de Villiers, Marcus Stoinis, Heinrich Klaasen/Shimron Hetmyer, Shivam Dube, Gurkeerat Singh Mann, Washington Sundar, Navdeep Saini, Umesh Yadav/Kulwant Khejroliya, Yuzvendra Chahal
Rajasthan: Ajinkya Rahane, Sanju Samson(w), Steven Smith(c), Riyan Parag, Ashton Turner, Liam Livingstone, Stuart Binny, Shreyas Gopal, Jaydev Unadkat, Varun Aaron, Oshane Thomas
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First Published: April 30, 2019, 8:57 AM IST