With their 16-run loss to Delhi Capitals on Sunday, RCB can bid goodbye to any slim hopes of making the play-offs, although mathematically, Virat Kohli and his men can still finish in the top-four.
For Rajasthan, however, a second play-off qualification in a row still remains in sight despite the ever-tightening race for the remaining two spots.
NO ROOM FOR ERROR FOR RAJASTHAN
While defending champions Chennai Super Kings and Delhi Capitals have confirmed their place in the play-offs, there are as many as five teams vying for the third and fourth spots. Of them, Mumbai Indians seem the best placed to advance with their two-point lead over the remaining four teams in the fray – Rajasthan, Sunrisers Hyderabad, Kings XI Punjab and Kolkata Knight Riders.
Of the four teams tied on 10 points apiece, Rajasthan are the worst-off currently with their dismal net run-rate and as such, have it all to do. Steve Smith and his men will need to win both their remaining fixtures at any cost if they are to make the play-offs with even one false misstep enough to bring the curtains down on their campaign.
SMITH’S LAST HURRAH
Tuesday’s clash at the Chinnaswamy Stadium in Bengaluru will be the final IPL 2019 appearance for Rajasthan skipper Steve Smith who will depart to join Australia’s 2019 World Cup training camp.
The Australian batsman has come into his own since replacing Ajinkya Rahane as the Rajasthan skipper with two fifties in his last four outings. The right-hander has marshalled his troops well since donning the captaincy hat with Rajasthan registering three victories in four games under his tenure.
With Jos Buttler, Jofra Archer and Ben Stokes having already left for England duty, the onus on Smith to deliver for Rajasthan has become even greater. The Aussie will want to sign off the IPL on a high and will be desperate to give Rajasthan a fighting chance ahead of their final league fixture against Delhi Capitals.
NOTHING TO LOSE FOR RCB
“The important thing now, even in the last two games we’ve got, is to just go out there and have fun,” RCB skipper Virat Kohli stated after the team’s loss to Delhi on Sunday.
With play-off qualification now an improbable dream, there isn’t really anything to play for when it comes to the Royal Challengers. As such, Kohli and his men now become a dangerous opponent for any side still hoping to seal a top-four berth.
Their failure to register a single victory in their first six games has proved to be costly with the resurgence coming too late. The fact that their in-form all-rounder Moeen Ali returned to England did not help their cause against Delhi either.
With two games still to play, expect RCB to ring in the changes and give fringe players an opportunity. That could mean the likes of Shimron Hetmyer and Colin de Grandhomme could get a chance to feature in the playing XI on Tuesday.
Royal Challengers Bangalore: Virat Kohli (c), Parthiv Patel (wk), Shimron Hetmyer, AB de Villiers, Colin de Grandhomme, Akshdeep Nath, Washington Sundar, Shivam Dube, Umesh Yadav, Navdeep Saini, Yuzvendra Chahal.
Rajasthan Royals: Ajinkya Rahane, Liam Livingstone, Steve Smith (c), Sanju Samson (wk), Ashton Turner, Riyan Parag, Stuart Binny, Shreyas Gopal, Jaydev Unadkat, Varun Aaron, Oshane Thomas.
The incident occurred during Mumbai’s clash against Kolkata Knight Riders on Sunday when Rohit was batting at the crease. With Mumbai chasing a target of 233 runs, Rohit was adjudged lbw by the umpire in the fourth over the innings after the right-hander had missed a hook off Harry Gurney.
Showing his frustration at the decision, the Mumbai opener broke the stumps at the non-striker’s end with his bat and exchanged a few words with the umpire before making his way off the field.
Rohit has accepted the charge under Level 1 of 2.2 of the IPL’s Code of Conduct.
Mumbai Indians ultimately went on to lose the match by 34 runs despite a valiant effort from all-rounder Hardik Pandya who struck the fastest half-century of the 2019 edition.
The loss means that the three-time champions will have to wait another game at least before they can confirm their spot in the play-offs. As of now, defending champions Chennai Super Kings and Delhi Capitals are the two sides to have secured their place in the play-offs.
Mumbai are currently third on the table with 14 points from 12 games so far and need at least one win in their remaining clashes against Kolkata Knight Riders and Sunrisers Hyderabad to guarantee a spot in the top-four.
On Sunday, Delhi became the second side after defending champions Chennai Super Kings to enter the IPL 2019 play-offs following their 16-run win over Royal Challengers Bangalore at the Feroz Shah Kotla stadium.
It was the eighth win in 12 games for Shreyas Iyer and his men and it helped them leapfrog Chennai to the top of the table. Delhi will now travel to Chennai to take on CSK in their penultimate league fixture and Ponting is excited by the challenge.
“You want to be peaking at the right time, so for us to bounce back after a five-day break and win tonight was a really good thing,” the Australian icon said after Saturday’s win.
“We go to Chennai now, which is a hard place for anybody to win, so that’s a great challenge for us.
“To the boys’ credit, we haven’t really talked about where we are on the table, just getting as well-prepared and planning as well as we can for the next challenge. So yeah, we’ve qualified, that’s really great, but two big games to go, and the target now will be to finish one or two.”
For Virat Kohli and RCB, the 16-run loss has all but ended their play-off ambitions. Mathematically, the side can still progress to the final four should other results too go their way but that seems highly unlikely and improbable at this stage.
Kohli is now hoping that his side can play with freedom in the remaining two league matches.
“The important thing now, even in the last two games we’ve got, is to just go out there and have fun,” the RCB skipper stated.
“Remember how we started playing this game and not take too much pressure. Obviously, we want to perform as well as we can, but the fun factor should never go away.
“We put ourselves under too much pressure in the first six games and it’s always too much of hard work at the latter half of the tournament, but we’ve still got two games and we’re going to work hard.”