Pune: A battle royale is on the cards when Royal Challengers Bangalore (RCB) lock horns with Rajasthan Royals in the Indian Premier League (IPL) Eliminator to be played at the Maharashtra Cricket Association International Stadium here on Wednesday.
The team which ends up second on the day will have to bid farewell to the eighth edition of the tournament and wait for another year to campaign for the coveted trophy.
The winner will face-off against the loser of Qualifier 1 — to be played in Mumbai on Tuesday — which will be either two-time champions Chennai Super Kings (CSK) or 2013 winners Mumbai Indians — who have had an amazing turnaround in fortunes this season.
For both RCB and the Royals, the next game would be a distant thought as first they have to outdo each other in one of the fiercest contests of this summer with both teams boasting of immense firepower.
Speaking of batting, it came to the forefront for both teams in their last encounters of the league stage where the Royals had the better of Kolkata Knight Riders (KKR) and RCB blasted away a formidable challenge from the Sunrisers Hyderabad. The last game for the Virat Kohli-led Royal Challengers against the Delhi Daredevils was a washout.
Against the Knights, it was Australian all-rounder Shane Watson who stood strong for the Royals, clubbing his way to an unconquered 104 off just 59 balls while it was Kohli and burly Jamaican Chris Gayle who stole the limelight in the game against Sunrisers as the Royal Challengers chased down 81 runs in barely six overs in a rain-curtailed tie.
Getting to the playoffs has not been a cakewalk for either, with both managing to win only seven of their 14 matches apiece — and in two cases each shared the spoils in rain-marred matches.
Nonetheless, the Royals will look to do a repeat of the inaugural edition where they clinched the title when most experts had written them off while RCB will look to holding aloft the trophy for the first time.
It is hard to separate the two outfits from their head-to-head encounters with each side pocketing seven of the 15 clashes between them.
It might just require a Herculean effort from the big guns to make a difference and clinch the contest on Wednesday night. Will it be Gayle, Kohli or AB de Villiers for RCB or will Watson and Steven Smith do it for the Royals?
Given the unpredictability of this format, it might also push up an unlikely hero in the form of a bowler like Mitchell Starc or Chris Morris.