Match date: May 19
Venue: Sawai Mansingh Stadium, Jaipur
Soon after hitting six sixes during his 65 off 34 balls for Royal Challengers Bangalore against Sunrisers Hyderabad, Moeen Ali was asked by the broadcaster how it felt to have shared a 107-run stand with AB de Villiers, who made 69 off 39 balls. “One of life’s greatest pleasures is to bat with AB, and it was amazing to share a partnership with him,” Moeen responded.
However, Moeen himself batted with such elegance that at times, he outdid even de Villiers with his strokeplay. His was clearly the best performance by a Bangalore batsman outside of de Villiers and Virat Kohli this season. The timing was crucial because Bangalore need their batting to click big time in yet another must-win clash when they face off against Rajasthan Royals in their last league game in Jaipur.
Both Bangalore and Rajasthan are on 12 points from 13 games and need to win to keep their playoff hopes alive. A win is only the first step towards fulfilling the dream. Both will then have to wait for the results of the other three matches over the weekend to know their fate.
In an ideal world, Moeen might have wanted to be in England for the two home Tests against Pakistan. But the new selection committee headed by Ed Smith have not included Moeen, while they have plumped for Jos Buttler. While that is great for Buttler naturally, it means Rajasthan will have to find a way to win without him.
Interestingly before the England squad had been announced, Shane Warne, Rajasthan’s mentor, had said on Instagram that Buttler “has to play Test cricket for England as he’s a quality player & what a difference he could make to the England test side ! Mr (Joe) Root should demand he be picked.”
Warne got his wish, but without Buttler, who made five consecutive half-centuries after being promoted to open, Rajasthan will take a hit. Buttler had revived the side spectacularly with his runs, and Rajasthan will miss him, as they will Ben Stokes, who has also left for the Tests.
In the same Instagram post, Warne felt D’Arcy Short “will become an awesome all round cricketer for Australia” and Sanju Samson “will be the next big India superstar batsman”. There could not be a better time for the two of them to make up for the absence of the English duo.
Samson will have good memories of the Bangalore attack, having made an unbeaten 45-ball 92 in the early part of the tournament. He has, however, faded away after that. Rajasthan will not only want him to fire, but also expect Ajinkya Rahane, whose slow batting has been a point of debate, to take more responsibility in a big game.
Played 17. Rajasthan 8. Bangalore 8. NR 1
Head-to-head in Jaipur:
Played 5. Rajasthan 2. Bangalore 3.