Rajasthan Royals (RR) hosts Royal Challengers Bangalore (RCB) at Sawai Mansingh Stadium in Jaipur on Sunday with the winner potentially beating the losing side to a spot in the playoffs.
A defeat could prove fatal for Sanju Samson’s men, who would then finish below the predicted 16-point cut-off. Wading through another middling campaign, RCB’s hopes will also hit a wall if it errs against RR on an afternoon where temperatures may hit mid-40 degrees Celsius.
Buoyed by the nine-wicket win over Kolkata Knight Riders after Yashasvi Jaiswal’s glittering unbeaten 98 and Yuzvendra Chahal’s four-wicket haul, RR will be keen to finish their home stretch with two points after three defeats in four previous matches.
Run-scoring has fluctuated on turners and belters at the ground. RR has totalled two sub-150 scores in losses to Gujarat Titans and Lucknow Super Giants. Even a 214-run total proved insufficient in an agonising last-ball shocker against Sunrisers Hyderabad last week.
However, captain Samson’s return to form has restored faith in the RR top-order. Jos Buttler has played second fiddle to the unstoppable Jaiswal, but the opening duo and Samson have formed a marauding force against spinners for the second consecutive season. While Samson possesses the highest strike rate (170.31) against the tweakers (min. 150 runs), Jaiswal has aggregated 173 runs in seven innings without being dismissed by spin.
Meanwhile, RCB is suffering from familiar woes: a misfiring middle-order and bowlers losing form at a crucial phase. Pace spearhead Mohammed Siraj would believe his two-match wicketless streak was just an aberration.
Leg-spinners Wanindu Hasaranga and Karn Sharma have their task cut out - their control in the middle overs could be a key differentiator in this clash. RCB’s bowlers have failed to threaten between overs 7-16, conceding 35.60 runs for each wicket in the phase.
RCB’s Director of Cricket Operations, Mike Hesson, said its middle-overs lull can be curbed with a strong PowerPlay display. “It’s more of a flow-on effect from the PowerPlay. In the first six-eight games, our PowerPlay bowling was exceptional. That makes the middle overs much easier. So if you can take care of that and bowl to the middle-order rather than set top-order batters, you can try to control the run rate and take wickets. But if you go into a damage-limitation mode, it is far harder to control,” Hesson said on Monday.
The visitor will also want captain Faf du Plessis’ unmistakable run to continue against the most effective (40 wickets) spin attack of the league, with Virat Kohli and Glenn Maxwell also stepping up with the bat in the ‘royal’ challenge.
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