Rajasthan Royals have lost their key player and Matt Harris expects the Royal Challengers to take full advantage on Saturday...
"Rajasthan hauled themselves off the bottom of the table with some admirable performances but the man largely responsible for putting them in touching distance of the play-offs has now left the squad."
Rajasthan Royals v Royal Challengers Bangalore
Saturday, 11:30 BST
Live on Sky Sports Cricket
Rajasthan hauled themselves off the bottom of the table with some admirable performances but the man largely responsible for putting them in touching distance of the play-offs has now left the squad. Jos Buttler's recall to the England test side has divided opinion but it leaves the Royals looking vulnerable as he and Ben Stokes depart IPL 11.
Stokes' contribution has been disappointing but his absence still leaves a hole to be filled by an overseas roster that has underwhelmed as a unit. At least it makes selection easier with Heinrich Klassen available to take the gloves while the pressure intensifies on the underperforming D'Arcy Short. Rajasthan needing to score quickly and heavily to secure a big winning margin to stand any chance of progressing.
This is around the time we see RCB make a late and forlorn challenge for the play-offs but while Virat Kohli's men have been one defeat away from elimination for some time, their superior net run rate gives Bangalore a much stronger chance of finishing in the top four should they win in Jaipur.
The usual issues apply within this squad: The Royal Challengers rely almost exclusively on Kohli and AB De Villiers for their runs and while the bowling unit has improved to the extent where they dismissed Kings XI for just 88 earlier in the week, a more typical RCB result came on Thursday where a big total of 218 was needed to defend against a stronger Sunrisers unit who passed 200 in reply.
One real positive in that win came via the performance of Moeen Ali who made 65 and returned best bowling figures. Bangalore have worked through all of their overseas all-rounders and will be grateful that Moeen has been overlooked by England's test selectors.
Throughout the tournament, Rajasthan Royals have been more productive at their Sawai Mansingh Stadium home and they come into Saturday's match with a healthy return of four wins and two defeats. It's not exactly a fortress, but the Royals have performed better here, even when early results had them at the foot of the table.
The average first innings score on this surface is 160 and there is a small range between the totals of 151 - 176. Wins have been shared equally shared the posting and the chasing teams so there is no real clue as to the toss but the side making first use of the facilities would look to go beyond that 160 average at a time when team totals are on the rise.
Fast Start Required
Even if the Royals win this at distant odds of [3.0], the likelihood is that qualification comes down to net run rate and that means they need to 'tee off' from ball one. Frequently, that kind of approach ends in disaster but there are other reasons why RCB should come through with the points.
For Rajasthan, the overseas imports have been poor and their auction was an expensive mistake as a whole. Short and Stokes get much of the blame but there's been little input form Jaydev Unadkat, Sanju Samson and Ajinkya Rahane - their three 'gun' domestic players.
Without Buttler, they look particularly vulnerable and a resurgent Bangalore side should convert at a modest [1.49].
Two years ago when Kohli approached 1,000 runs and De Villiers was also scoring heavily, the bet was to take both men in the Royal Challengers' Top Batsman betting and it proved a profitable one.
It may not be about two men but that could be a solid approach for Saturday's match. If pushed I would single out Kohli at 6/4 but AB offers better value at 16/5 while other options include Parthiv Patel, Brendon McCullum and Manan Vohra, all at 7/2.
With RCB so dominant in the pricing there is little in the way of value in terms of other batting markets so I'll finish with Bangalore's top bowler. Moeen Ali converted last time from two expensive overs but for Saturday I'm going back to Tim Southee at 7/2.
He's not been at his best during IPL 11 but with Rajasthan needing fast early runs they are vulnerable in the Powerplay overs and it's time for Southee to take advantage.
Matt Harris' IPL 2018 P/L