Tense clash for last playoff spot
Sunday, May 25, 2014
Start time 2000 local (1430 GMT)
The last time these two teams met, Rajasthan Royals were third on the points table, one win away from a playoff spot. A week later, they have been overtaken by Kolkata Knight Riders, are still stuck on 14 points and are now gasping to stay ahead in a tight race for the playoffs. On Sunday, they will take on Mumbai Indians again, this time to decide which of the two teams makes it to the top four.
Mumbai and Royals will know what they need. A win, however narrow, will be enough for Royals. Mumbai need to win, too, but for them margins are an equally important factor - they need to be beat Royals by a margin of at least 42 runs batting first, or chase down a target in the region of 130-201 in 87 balls to move up on net run rate.
Royals were the first of three casualties that have helped Mumbai stay alive in the race. They've beaten table-toppers Kings XI Punjab and survived a batting collapse against Delhi Daredevils. More importantly, in all their three wins, they have found stability at the top of the order and that's made a remarkable difference to their batting performances.
Royals, on the other hand, have gone the opposite way. Their main areas of concern are death bowling - they gave away 56 runs against Mumbai in the last five overs and 46 in the last three against Kings XI - and batting. The indifferent form of their retained batsmen - Ajinkya Rahane, Shane Watson, Stuart Binny and Sanju Samson - has weakened them in the last two games, and their creative ideas (Rahul Tewatia and Ankit Sharma sent ahead of Brad Hodge and James Faulkner on Friday) with the batting line-up have not worked.
Mumbai Indians: WWWLW
Rajasthan Royals: LLWLW
Where they stand
Mumbai Indians: Fifth place with 12 points from 13 games
Rajasthan Royals: Fourth, with 14 points from 13 games
A dismal batting performance by Royals saw them crash to a 25-run loss against Mumbai in Ahmedabad, in the first encounter between the two sides in IPL 2014. Fifties from Lendl Simmons and Michael Hussey took Mumbai to 178, but Royals slipped behind early on, crumbling to 75 for 7 in the 12th over. The margin of defeat would have been much bigger had it not been for a 69-run stand between Brad Hodge and James Faulkner.
Watch out for
Jasprit Bumrah had a memorable IPL debut last year, when he took 3 for 32 against Royal Challengers Bangalore. This season, he has accounted for George Bailey and AB de Villiers while conceding 7.2 runs per over, but his economy rate in the last five overs has spiked to 9.2. Mumbai will want him to repeat his performance against Daredevils, where he kept hitting the blockhole at the end of the innings.
Known for their unconventional choices, Royals surprised a few when they chose to leave Steven Smith out against Mumbai Indians and Kings XI Punjab. He had played two near-nerveless knocks - in the Super Over against Knight Riders and then against Royal Challengers. His possible presence, perhaps in place of Kevon Cooper, in the side ahead of a crucial game could lend some heft to a stuttering middle order and his athleticism in the field can save a few runs too.
Stats and trivia
- Mumbai have lost the most number of wickets - 39 - in the last five overs in this IPL. Royals are second on the list with 31
- With 71 runs in his last two games, Brad Hodge has become only the second cricketer, after Chris Gayle, to score more than 6000 runs in T20s. He has 6056 runs in 220 games
"I have felt like I have had it in most of the tournament. But in cricket, sometimes it doesn't go your way."
Michael Hussey on his erratic form in the first part of the tournament
"At the start, I found it a little tough because I was trying too hard, not giving myself time and trying too much at the beginning itself. So, I decided that I should just give myself time and then runs would flow."
Karun Nair on the adjustments he made while moving to open the batting for Royals
Rachna Shetty is a senior sub-editor at ESPNcricinfo