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Cricket news - RR look to claw their way up in playoffs hunt

Shreyas Gopal returns to his home ground with a tally of nine wickets in three fixtures against RCB

Royal Challengers Bangalore and Rajasthan Royals are on a mathematical collision course.

For all practical purposes, RCB fell out of the playoffs race with their loss to Delhi Capitals on Sunday as no team has ever qualified with 12 points so far. But mathematically, they hang on. The highly improbable scenario where RCB might make it this season requires them to not only win both their remaining fixtures - and win big to further their NRR - but also for the stars to align perfectly [read: bunch of other results falling into their lap].

Their opponents for Tuesday, Rajasthan Royals, have a little bit more of a breathing space. One extra win than their hosts after 12 games means they have a slightly better control of their fate. NRR-boosting victories will still be their best bet, considering there could be a few other playoffs spot contenders lining up for a 14-point finish. There's also a chance they end up on 14 points but fail to qualify, but there's nothing they can do about that scenario.

The change in leadership at RR has helped the forms of both the relieved-of-duty captain Ajinkya Rahane and the incumbent Steve Smith, as well as that of the team. The Royals have since then won three of their four games, reviving their campaign that was all but over at the halfway stage. They come into the contest on the back of consecutive wins and, more importantly, not losing momentum with the departure of their three big foreign attractions - Jos Buttler, Ben Stokes and Jofra Archer.

There are encouraging signs on the bowling front too. Oshane Thomas has blended in well and Jaydev Unadkat too seems to have overcome a shoddy start to the season, with his Man of the Match show in Hyderabad last game. However, the cynosure of all eyes will be local boy Shreyas Gopal. The Bangalore-born legspinner claimed the big-hitting trio of Virat Kohli, AB de Villiers and Shimron Hetmyer in their previous meeting to set up RR's first win of the season, and returns to his home ground with the ever-growing reputation of being RR's best with the ball.

When: Royal Challengers Bangalore vs Rajasthan Royals, Match 49 on April 30 at 8pm IST

Where: M Chinnaswamy Stadium, Bengaluru

What to expect: The short boundaries, batting friendly strip and fast outfield at Chinnaswamy, that RCB call home, have rarely failed the T20 audience. A cloudy evening in store for the match day, with an outside chance of scattered rain in the city.

Team News

Royal Challengers Bangalore

Virat Kohli surprisingly went in a bowler, and a foreign player, short in their game in Delhi, and the team felt the pinch immediately. Addressing the issue could mean time on the bench again for Shivam Dube, who has a sum total of 40 runs in four outings so far this season.

Probable XI: Parthiv Patel (wk), Virat Kohli (C), AB de Villiers, Heinrich Klaasen/Shimron Hetmyer, Gurkeerat Mann, Marcus Stoinis, Tim Southee/Mohammad Siraj, Washington Sundar, Umesh Yadav, Navdeep Saini, Yuzvendra Chahal

Rajasthan Royals

Despite having landed awkwardly while fielding in the last game, Smith has ruled out any major concern to his sensitive elbow, though admitting his right arm isn't at a 100% throwing capacity yet. His team has finally found some rhythm and are unlikely to tamper with their winning combination after that morale-boosting win in Hyderabad, unless there are injury concerns.

Probable XI: Ajinkya Rahane, Liam Livingstone, Sanju Samson (wk), Steve Smith (C), Ashton Turner, Riyan Parag, Stuart Binny, Shreyas Gopal, Jaydev Unadkat, Oshane Thomas, Varun Aaron

Did you know:

- RR is the only side against whom Virat Kohli averages less than 25 (21.38) and has a SR of less than 120 (101.48).

- Shreyas Gopal has taken nine wickets in three games against RCB at an average of 5.56. He was the Man of the Match in the last two matches between the two teams.

- RR have a 10-8 head-to-head advantage over RCB, and at Chinnaswamy they lead the home side 4-2

What they said?

"I think I have probably taken a little while to sort of warm into things again. The start of the tournament did not go as well as I would have like personally or collectively as a group. But I think the more I padded up, the better I have felt as the tournament has gone on. I've been able to contribute to a couple of wins probably in the last two matches; that felt very good" - Steve Smith sums up his IPL 2019 ahead of his last game of the season.

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