Yuvraj return lifts Pune Warriors
Match factsThursday, April 11, 2013
Start time 2000 (1430 GMT)
Big PicturePune Warriors' middle-order should be the envy of any Twenty20 team. Marlon Samuels, Yuvraj Singh, Ross Taylor and Angelo Mathews form the nucleus of what could be one of the most dangerous batting line-ups around but so far, Warriors have put up the two lowest totals of the season.
When Yuvraj missed out on the game against Kings XI Punjab, they couldn't even manage to reach triple-figures, managing only 99. The good news ahead of the match against Rajasthan Royals is that Yuvraj, who was recovering from a back problem, has been confirmed fit. They still won't be able to field their first-choice middle-order, though, as Samuels has picked up a groin injury. Samuels' absence opens up an overseas player's spot and Warriors have Australia batsman Steven Smith, who was an influential performer for them last season, and England's Luke Wright in their ranks. However, coach Allan Donald said on the eve of the match that big-hitting Australian opener Aaron Finch would come in.*
In contrast, their opponents have got off to a flying start. Royals, as in every season, were written off before the tournament began, but have won two in two, with victories over defending champions Kolkata Knight Riders and another highly rated team, Delhi Daredevils. As usual, low-profile players have played crucial roles, including Trinidad & Tobago allrounder Kevon Cooper and Jharkhand fast bowler Rahul Shukla.
Players to watchSreesanth was out of action for more than a year after surgery on his toes and only returned to action in December, having watched a host of young fast bowlers leapfrog him in the queue to the Indian team. The IPL provides him a high-profile platform to remind everyone he's still good enough to turn out for the national side. He's begun well enough, bowling tight spells in the opening matches, and even showed off one of his typically exuberant celebrations.
Robin Uthappa is one of Sreesanth's best friends in cricket, with the pair even launching a cricket homestay together. Like Sreesanth, Uthappa too has fallen out of the national reckoning, and his failings in the IPL have not helped his cause. Two years ago, Warriors splashed out serious money to build the franchise around Uthappa and Yuvraj but Uthappa hasn't been the match-winner the franchise expected him to be, yet.
Stats and trivia
- Warriors' Manish Pandey has the most number of ducks in the IPL - eight, an wanted record he shares with Amit Mishra
- Royals' Samuel Badree has the best economy-rate among all bowlers in Twenty20s, having conceded only 4.90 runs an over in his career
Quotes"Manish Pandey and Robin Uthappa are attacking batsmen, but they seem to have gone into a shell during the Powerplay overs."
Warriors coach Allan Donald knows the side needs to get better starts
*03.20GMT, April 11: The preview was updated after pre-match press conference quotes came in
Siddarth Ravindran is a senior sub-editor at ESPNcricinfo