Rajasthan Royals v Chennai Super Kings
Friday 20 May, 15:00
TV: live on Sky Sports
Big game for the Royals
Rajasthan have had a really good season and crucially won the game that really mattered. On Sunday they played their rivals for that second place finish in Lucknow and beat them convincingly.
Not only did they go level on points with the Super Giants as a result of that win but they also edged ahead on net run rate. If they win here and Lucknow lose against Kolkata, Rajasthan will definitely finish second.
If they both win (or both lose) Rajasthan will still be favourites for the runners-up spot but the net run rate is actually quite tight between them so it could still go either way.
There was no big score from Jos Buttler this time. Instead, knocks from Yashavi Jaiswal (41), Sanju Samson (32) and Devdutt Padikkal (39) got them to 178, before an excellent opening burst from Trent Boult had Lucknow under pressure from which they never really recovered.
Shimron Hetmyer, who has made some vital late middle-order runs, is likely to play for Rajasthan after flying home for the birth of his son. If that happens, James Neesham will make way.
Rajasthan's Likely XI
Buttler, Jaiswal, Samson, Padikkal, Parag, Hetmyer, Ashwin, Boult, Krishna, McCoy, Chahal.
Where it went wrong for CSK
A mix of bad luck and poor decision-making means CSK's race was run a long time ago. There's not much you can do about losing your two best fast bowlers in Deepak Chahar and Adam Milne. The former didn't play at all, the latter featured just once.
But the decision to appoint Ravindra Jadeja as skipper looks worse the more you think about it.
Why did MS Dhoni give it up? Why give it to Jadeja, a man with no captaincy experience? Why give it to a man who already bowls, bats and fields in the key positions? Didn't he have enough on his plate?
Of course, it didn't help that the likes of Ruturaj Gaikwad and Moeen Ali, both excellent last year, were quiet this time round. Gaikwad's form has admittedly improved but it's all too little, too late.
They'll go again next season and should improve considerably.
Chennai's Likely XI
Gaikwad, Conway, Ali, Jagadeesan, Dube, Rayudu, Dhoni, Santner, Singh, Pathirana, Choudhary.
This has been the highest-scoring ground all season. It was at Brabourne that the Royals posted 178/6 to beat Lucknow on Sunday. And before that there were scores of 209/9 by Punjab (defended), 177/6 by Mumbai (defended), 207/3 by Delhi (defended) and 170/6 by RCB, chased by Gujarat.
So going above 170 on the first innings runs line should pay off but the team batting first may need around 180 on the board to be confident.
It would be no surprise if the skipper winning the toss decides to bat.
Royals very justified favourites
The Royals are 1.774/5 to win this one.
It's not hard to make a case for backing that. They've been far more consistent than CSK, as the table shows, and this is an important game for them because they'll want to win to make sure of that all-important runners-up spot.
At the start of the tournament they were over-reliant on Buttler's runs but they've dried up somewhat and others have stepped in. With the ball, they've been pricey but always managed to take wickets and break partnerships when needed.
As for CSK, in addition to having little to play for other than pride, they probably won't even field their strongest side here.
The likes of Ambati Rayudu, Robin Uthappa and Dwayne Bravo were all left out last time to give others a chance. There's nothing wrong with preparing for next season already and seeing who's up to it among fringe players, but it limits their ability to win this match.
You'll see far worse bets than the 1.774/5 about the Royals this week.
Boosted Gaikwad finding his groove
Ruturaj Gaikwad is nothing if not consistent, in that he's a slow starter before peaking at the end of the IPL season.
Which is all a bit odd because you would have thought that it's at the start of the season on fresh pitches that you'd score the most runs.
But let's look at the facts.
In 2020, he missed the first half of the season after getting Covid and then having a niggle, only coming back for the last few matches, where he was excellent. He scored three fifties in six matches, averaging 51.
Then in 2021 he started slowly before coming good when it most mattered in the latter stages and ended up as the IPL's Orange Cap holder.
And this season he struggled again in the early games before getting better and better.
At one stage he was close to being dropped but in his last five games he scored 99, 28, 41, 7 and 53 and is now the side's highest runscorer. He top-scored with that 99 and 53.
So he's in form, he opens the batting and may benefit from some of the better players like Uthappa and Rayudu not featuring. In addition to that, he's been boosted from 13/5 to 16/5 so it's an easy choice.
Two Royals players for MOM
An alternative to the straight Royals win is to go for a couple of Rajasthan players for man-of-the-match. After all, the MOM comes from the winning side about 99% of the time.
The first player to look at is Ravi Ashwin.
He's been solid rather than spectacular with 10 wickets in 13 games but his economy rate has been really good at 7.15, the best of anyone in the side.
He's bowled his four overs in every match so far so at least you'll get a good run for your money on that front.
But there's another angle here.
He's been promoted a couple of times, including two matches ago where he top-scored with 50. So, a decent knock with the bat could further help his cause. He's 11/1.
Th other one worth a small wager is Jaiswal.
At 9/1 he's a bigger price than opening partner Buttler (9/1) and has been in better form than the England man. His last three scores read 68, 19 and 41 so rather like Gaikwad, might be getting better and better as the tournament progresses.
Buttler has been somewhat short of runs of late with 22, 30, 7 and 4 in his last four outings.