Royal Challengers Bangalore (RCB) takes on Rajasthan Royals (RR) in the first eliminator battle in the playoffs of the Indian Premier League in Pune tonight. The winner will qualify for the second eliminator, against Chennai Super Kings in Ranchi. The loser will bow out of the tournament.

Background

The head to head record between these teams over the IPL history is pretty even. Both the teams have won seven matches each. However, in this edition of the IPL, RCB dominated both the matches against the Rajasthan team. They scored a facile nine-wicket win in the away match in Ahmedabad. In the home match in Bangalore, RCB posted 200 for seven in 20 overs batting first. RR did not face a single ball as heavy rain forced the abandonment of the match.

This is kind of David vs Goliath fight. RCB has all the big guns. The team has become better as the tournament progressed. RR relies on team work. However, their form has been decaying. Only a majestic performance from Shane Watson helped them win against Kolkata Knight Riders in what was a virtual qualifying match for the playoffs.

Preview – RCB

The equation for RCB is simple. Two of their big three – Chris Gayle, Virat Kohli and AB de Villiers – have to fire with the bat. If that happens, they look simply unstoppable. If a couple of them have an off-day, then Mitchell Starc will have to step in. The awesome foursome of Royal Challengers has the capability to make or break RCB’s fortunes.

RR does not have a great bowling unit. Expect Gayle and co to make merry, especially if they bat first.

Preview – RR

The trick of changing captaincy seems to have done the job for the Rajasthan team. The team was going great guns – five wins in a row – when Steve Smith was captaining. The return of Shane Watson as captain brought in bad luck for the team. Now, with Smith back as captain, RR will be once again looking for a winning spree.

Rajasthan Royals’ performance depends on a lot of factors. Still, if a single factor can be identified, it must be Ajinkya Rahane’s performance. When Rahane anchors the innings, RR usually makes a big total. It would be interesting to see how he is going to negotiate Starc’s opening burst.

Prediction

Royal Challengers Bangalore appears the better side. They have the caliber and momentum. It would be a surprise if Rajasthan Royals pulls off a win. Still, there is no reason they cannot spring a surprise, particularly if they bat first.

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