Punjab v Rajasthan, IPL 2013, Mohali May 8, 2013

Likeable teams in lively tussle for playoff push

Match facts

Thursday, May 9, 2013
Start time 1600 (1030 GMT)

Big Picture

These must be the two teams neutrals like the most. Rajasthan Royals are led by one of the most admired Indian cricketers of all time, and have made the most use of domestic - and limited, mind you - resources. Kings XI Punjab have not been the most efficient side of the tournament by a long distance, but they have played attractively. It also helps that at almost every step of the way, they have had to deal with umpiring howlers, which they have complained about but not without humour.

This is no goodwill match, though. This is pretty serious business with pretty serious implications. Kings XI need to win almost every one of their remaining five games. They have five wins so far, and nine is no longer the magic number because three teams have either been eliminated or are on the brink of elimination, making it a much tighter competition in the middle of the table.

Royals have six points more than Kings XI, but the latter have a game in hand. All the winning of hearts and matches against odds might amount to nothing if Royals slip here.

Form guide

Kings XI Punjab WLLLW
Rajasthan Royals WWLWW

Watch out for...

Kings XI have relied mainly on David Miller, whose good performance hasn't come as a surprise to those who follow South African cricket, but they have in their side a man who almost single-handedly took them to the semi-final of the inaugural IPL. Shaun Marsh has shown glimpses of that form in the three matches he has been able to play so far, but Kings XI can really do with the real deal here.

If IPL performances matter for India selection, Ajinkya Rahane has started his good run a touch too late, scoring back-to-back fifties and claiming the Man-of-the-Match award in both the matches. For Royals, though, the runs haven't come too late, and they will need more of the same from him.

Stats and trivia

  • The two highest successful chases this IPL belong to Kings XI. Royals are not too far behind. They have scripted the fourth- and fifth-highest successful chases this season.
  • Miller has now scored three successive scores of fifty or more. This is not too rare an even in Twenty20 cricket, but only seven men have gone a step ahead. His century against Royal Challengers Bangalore, scored off 38 balls, was the sixth-fastest in T20s.
  • At 813 runs, Rahul Dravid and Rahane are now the fourth-most prolific opening partnership in IPL. Only Michael Hussey and M Vijay have done better than their eight stands of 50 or above.
  • This is the fourth match Royals are playing in eight days. Only Royal Challengers have had to go through such a busy week in this IPL.

Quotes

"We are very close to play-offs, there is no doubt about that. We have been playing very good cricket, but we still need to finish it off strongly. To get to the finals, certainly we have got the quality players."
Royals' Shane Watson is confident

"I know it sounds like a whinge. And it is."
Kings XI's Adam Gilchrist while joking about the umpiring blunders that his team has suffered

Sidharth Monga is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo

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