Pune: Sneaking into the play-offs at the last moment, an unpredictable Rajasthan Royals will look to upstage a batting-heavy Royal Challengers Bangalore in a tough IPL Eliminator here tomorrow.
The Steve Smith-led side found its rhythm at the business end of the T20 tournament and won a thrilling last league game to enter the final-four after settling at the fourth spot.
Australian opener Shane Watson, who was relieved of his captaincy at the final stages of the event, struck an unbeaten 104 in the final league game to push defending champions Kolkata Knight Riders out of the title race.
AB de Villers and Shane Watson. Pic/ PTI
Opener Ajinkya Rahane is also in top form as the Mumbai batsman has amassed 498 runs from 13 games to have a strong chance of taking the orange cap from David Warner (562 from 14 matches, whose team SunRisers Hyderabad failed to make the final-four cut.
If Australia's James Faulkner has filled the role of the all-rounder to perfection then South Africa medium-pacer Chris Morris has led the attack with aplomb. Carrying an inherent character of promoting home-grown talent since Shane Warne led the team, RR's Sanju Samson, Karun Nair and Dhawal Kulkarni have also played their respective parts well.
RCB, who ended third in the table with the same number of points as RR but a better run-rate, have had their share of losses but the Virat Kohli-led side has inevitably fired when it mattered.
Their massive win against Mumbai Indians on May 10 truly reflected their class with AB de Villers hitting an unbeaten 133 to pulverise the opposition attack.
The big-hitting Chris Gayle, who has also notched up a ton this season, has once again proved his worth for the Vijay Mallya-owned and with Kohli, has formed quite a destructive opening pair.
No wonder Gayle, Kohli and De Villiers feature in the top-ten batsmen's list in the tournament so far. The bowling unit, led by Mitchel Starc, David Wiese and Yuzvendra Chahal has also backed their batsmen's effort with effective ease.
But in a knockout game it's more a matter of nerves than record or form and the Eliminator will certainly test the true character of both the teams. The two teams are locked even on head-to-head count with a 7-7 record but the Eliminator battle carries the weight of a title dream for both the sides.
While the Rahul Dravid-mentored RR will look to repeat their title win in 2008, RCB eye their maiden trophy after ending up runners-up in in the 2009 and 2011 editions. In tomorrow's game, the loser will bow out of the tournament while the winner will have to play the second qualifier for securing a spot in the final.
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