Lions look to breach Royals home advantage
Match factsSeptember 25, 2013
Start time 2000 IST (1430 GMT)
Big pictureThe game between Rajasthan Royals and Lions in Jaipur is a contest between two of the most similar teams in the Champions League, in terms of their style of play and their approach to the game.
Their results in the last season - a third-place IPL finish for the Royals, in spite of the spot-fixing scandal, and a first title win in six seasons for the Lions - were built out of team cultures that stress on collective efforts, freedom to youngsters and an uninhibited approach to opponents.
Royals' captain Rahul Dravid said after the win against Mumbai Indians that the side had left the spot-fixing issue aside. A win here will help them pull away with a small lead in the group that could prove vital given the format of the tournament. The Lions, on the other hand, will seek crucial points after their first match against Perth Scorchers was abandoned due to rain.
Royals are unbeaten at home and the fresh track during the IPL and against Mumbai suited their bowling attack. These are conditions, however, that will also benefit the Lions attack. Even without Chris Morris, who is playing for Chennai Super Kings, the Lions pace attack comprises formidable bowlers Hardus Viljoen, Sohail Tanvir and Lonwabo Tsotsobe. Royals have an equally effective pace attack, led chiefly by James Faulkner and Shane Watson. Vikramjeet Malik showed he has the potential to fill in for Siddharth Trivedi and Royals also have good options in Kevon Cooper, Stuart Binny and Rahul Shukla. Royals, however, are the weaker side in spin-bowling. Ashok Menaria has been in good bowling form recently, but without Brad Hogg, the Royals spin attack, that also includes Harmeet Singh and Pravin Tambe, will miss the assuring presence of a senior spinner. The Lions spin attack, meanwhile, has the experienced Imran Tahir and Aaron Phangiso. Given the conditions, however, the pacers may once again dominate.
In batting, the two sides are fairly evenly matched. Quinton de Kock has struggled in subcontinent conditions but has the potential to give Lions an explosive start. Alviro Petersen has charge of the middle order and it will be interesting to see if Lions decide to bring the experienced Neil McKenzie into the order to steady them. In the IPL, Royals garnered some attention for unusual batting changes and they stuck to that strategy pushing Sanju Samson to No. 3 against Mumbai. Rahul Dravid and Ajinkya Rahane can give them good starts and Watson's presence can add depth to a solid middle order that includes Binny and Brad Hodge.
Players to watchEarlier this year, Lonwabo Tsotsobe switched to the Lions, his third first-class club in as many years. He was publicly criticized for his fitness and attitude by South Africa coach Russell Domingo at the end of the Sri Lanka tour and he was not originally a part of the Lions' squad for the Champions League. He comes into this tournament with plenty to prove to his detractors. A solid contribution to the Lions' cause will also ease his entry into the new side, ahead of South Africa's domestic season.
Shane Watson can again be expected to play a crucial role for Royals. He comes into the Champions League on the back of a century in the one-dayers against England and he brought all his experience into play to take Royals to victory in a close chase against Mumbai. Unlike the IPL, where he took his time returning to bowling after an injury, he will have to shoulder more of the burden this time round.
Rachna Shetty is a senior sub-editor at ESPNcricinfo