Kings XI Punjab v Rajasthan Royals, IPL, Durban May 4, 2009

Punjab's chance to build on momentum

Match facts

May 5, 2009
Start time 12.30 (10.30GMT)

Big Picture

It's a measure of the competitiveness of this year's IPL that the two teams clashing in Durban on Tuesday are five places apart in the rankings table, but only one point separates them. Kings XI Punjab have eight points from seven games, while Rajasthan Royals are on seven from as many games.

Punjab will go in as favourites, not only because of the rank in the table, but also because of their recent form - they've won four of their last five games, with their only defeat being a closely fought match against Bangalore. They have in their ranks Yusuf Abdulla, the highest wicket-taker in the IPL so far, while the batting is showing signs of coming to grips with the conditions in South Africa.

Rajasthan, on the other hand, need to string together a few wins to get their campaign on track. Graeme Smith's lack of form - 65 runs in six innings, including 44 in one - has been the biggest worry, and has exposed an inexperienced top order in conditions where hitting through the line isn't a high-percentage option. The middle order, led by Yusuf Pathan, and the bowling have made up for the top-order lapses, which is why the team has won three out of seven so far.

Form guide (completed matches, most recent first)

Kings XI Punjab - WLWWW
Punjab have found some momentum after getting off to a slow start, and what's been particularly impressive is the consistency shown by the bowlers. Abdulla has been incisive, Irfan Pathan has supported him well, and Piyush Chawla's guile and control has meant that few batsmen have successfully belted him for runs. The batting responsibilities have been shared around as well, with four batsmen getting half-centuries.

Rajasthan Royals - WLWLW
As their result pattern suggests, Rajasthan have struggled to consistently put together winning performances. Their top order has been woeful, and their poor form continued against Deccan, when they slumped to 3 for 3 before the middle order bailed them out. Yusuf Pathan has been the tournament's biggest matchwinner so far, but in the last few games Ravidra Jadeja and Abhishek Raut have put their hands up too, which is good news for them. Now, if only Graeme Smith hits top gear soon.

Watch out for

The battle of the Pathan brothers: Yusuf has so far outperformed Irfan in IPL 2009, scoring more runs, at a faster rate, and bowling more economically: his 169 runs have come at an average of 33.80 and a strike rate of 160.95; Irfan has scored 115 runs at 23.00 and a strike rate of 125. Irfan has taken more wickets at a much better average, but he has gone at 7.20 runs per over compared to Yusuf's 6.52. Moreover, Yusuf has won three Man-of-the-Match awards while Irfan doesn't have any. Irfan edged their personal battle last time, though, scoring 14 from nine balls off Yusuf, and conceding only eight off seven to him.

Team news

Punjab might not want to tinker too much with the side that clinched the last-ball thriller against Kolkata, which means Sunny Sohal will continue at the top of the order in place of Karan Goel. Kumar Sangakkara scored a duck when he opened in the previous match, and might be pushed back to No.3.

Kings XI Punjab: (probable) 1 Sunny Sohal, 2 Simon Katich, 3 Kumar Sangakkara (wk), 4 Yuvraj Singh (capt), 5 Mahela Jayawardene, 6 Irfan Pathan, 7 Tanmay Srivastava, 8 Piyush Chawla, 9 Ramesh Powar, 10 VS Malik, 11 Yusuf Abdulla.

Rajasthan have problems at the top of the order, but Lee Carseldine impressed with 39 in his first IPL outing. Swapnil Asnodkar has scored two ducks in five innings so far, and Rajasthan could consider a replacement.

Rajasthan: (probable) 1 Graeme Smith, 2 Swapnil Asnodkar/ Paul Valthaty, 3 Lee Carseldine, 4 Yusuf Pathan, 5 Ravindra Jedeja, 6 Abhishek Raut, 7 Naman Ojha (wk), 8 Shane Warne (capt), 9 Shane Harwood, 10 Siddharth Trivedi, 11 Munaf Patel.

Stats and trivia

  • Spinners have done much better than fast bowlers in Durban so far, and they could have a bigger role to play considering Tuesday's match is a day game. The 36 wickets that spinners have taken have come at an average of 22.55 and an economy rate of 6.72. Fast bowlers have taken 57 wickets at 26.92 and an economy rate of 8.21.

  • In nine innings played by Asnodkar, Paul Valthaty, Niraj Patel and Naman Ojha - four of the young Indian talents for Rajasthan - they have scored a combined total of 34 runs at an average of 3.78.

  • Rajasthan have been the best bowling team in the first six overs, taking 13 wickets at an average of 17.38 and an economy rate of 6.27. Punjab have taken 14 wickets in the first six, but an average of 20.57 and an economy rate of 7.05.

Head-to-head record

Punjab won their first encounter, in Cape Town, by 27 runs, with their bowlers making quick inroads into Rajasthan's brittle top order, reducing them to 36 for 5 in their chase of a modest target of 140.

Last season, both teams had one victory each against the other: Rajasthan won by six wickets in Jaipur, while Punjab hit back with a 41-run win in Mohali.

S Rajesh is stats editor of Cricinfo