Level teams jostle for spot in semis
May 14, 2009
Start time 16.30 (14.30 GMT, 20.00 IST)
The IPL's league stage is in its last leg, but who will make it to the final four is still anybody's guess. Delhi Daredevils and Chennai Super Kings appear to have sealed a semi-final berth. But the other two spots are up for grabs in a five-way battle and the results of today's games will provide a better indication of who will progress from the league stages.
Mumbai Indians and Rajasthan Royals have both had an erratic run thus far but their recent results have been contrasting. Mumbai shrugged off three consecutive defeats to win their last two games fairly convincingly while Rajasthan squandered the momentum of three wins in a row to lose their last two games, both by sizable margins. If Mumbai have an edge on recent form, Rajasthan are under the added pressure of winning back a place in the top four. A victory for either team will push them to No.3 while a loss will put them below the safe zone and it will all come down to their last two matches.
Rajasthan have major worries. Two of their main strike bowlers, Kamran Khan and Amit Singh, have been referred for suspect actions, denting their pace attack; their middle order has performed woefully in their last two games; but most importantly, they are likely to be without Shane Warne, who suffered a hamstring injury against Deccan Chargers. Mumbai, on the other hand, have had Sachin Tendulkar return to form in the eight-wicket win against Kings XI Punjab, experimented with changes in the batting order - promoting Dwayne Bravo to open - which proved successful, and have been boosted by the performance of their spinners. No doubt about who start favourites, but that doesn't count for much really.
Form guide (completed matches, most recent first)
Mumbai Indians: WWLLL
Sanath Jayasuriya needs to get firing at the top. His form has been patchy, and though he's displayed flashes of his destructive play, he's been lacking in consistency, averaging 19.44 in nine innings. JP Duminy has been their best batsman and Ajinkya Rahane's half-century after a torrid run in the early phase will ease their No.3 worries. The most encouraging factor has been their spin attack, led by Harbhajan Singh, who's been highly economical, conceding just three-an-over at an average of 8 in his last two games.
Rajasthan Royals: LLWWW
Rajasthan's middle order shares a bulk of the blame for their two successive losses. Nos 3 to 10 have averaged just 15.5 in the previous two games, in totals of 140 and 113. Yusuf Pathan has had two failures with the bat and so has Naman Ojha. Especially worrying is the form of Lee Carseldine, who has managed 9, 9 and 8 in his last three innings.
Watch out for
Dwayne Bravo: Left out of the West Indies touring squad to England, Bravo has answered his critics, scoring 168 runs in his last four innings at an average of 84. He adapted well to his promotion to the opening slot, making a 59-ball 70 against Punjab, and that innings has propelled him to second place among Mumbai's highest run-getters this season. It remains to be seen if Mumbai retain him as opener if batting first, or when the target is more imposing than the 120 set by Punjab in the last game. Also, he's only managed three wickets in his last six games, and will want to do more to live up to his role as an allrounder.
If Warne is absent, Graeme Smith is most likely to step in as captain. Rajasthan may look to Tyron Henderson to fill in as a replacement and boost an ailing middle order. They also have the option of playing their latest recruit, Johan Botha, who's been drafted into the squad in place of the injured Shaun Tait. Though he can't bowl his doosra - he was reported for a suspect action in the recent ODI series against Australia - he is a welcome addition to a team that is without the services of some of its key bowlers, namely Tait, Shane Watson and Sohail Tanvir. Rob Quiney hasn't done much to win a call-back but Carseldine's poor form means his return cannot be entirely ruled out.
Rajasthan (probable): 1 Graeme Smith (capt), 2 Swapnil Asnodkar, 3 Naman Ojha, 4 Lee Carseldine/ Rob Quiney, 5 Yusuf Pathan, 6 Ravindra Jadeja 7 Abhishek Raut, 8 Tyron Henderson/Johan Botha, 9 Morne Morkel, 10 Siddharth Trivedi, 11 Munaf Patel.
Given their performance against Punjab, it is unlikely that Mumbai will tinker with their line-up. Rohan Raje, who replaced Chetanya Nanda, bowled just one over and the two players could swap places once again.
Mumbai Indians (probable): 1 Sanath Jayasuriya, 2 Sachin Tendulkar/ Dwayne Bravo, 3 Ajinkya Rahane, 4 Sachin Tendulkar/Dwayne Bravo, 5JP Duminy, 6 Abhishek Nayar, 7 Harbhajan Singh, 8 Rohan Raje/ Chetanya Nanda, 9 Yogesh Takawale (wk), 10 Dhawal Kulkarni, 11 Lasith Malinga.
Stats and trivia
The previous game between the two teams in Durban was washed out. Last year, the first game between these two was a one-sided affair, with Mumbai easing to a seven-wicket win after bowling out Rajasthan for 103. The second match was a last-ball thriller, one of four for Mumbai, who lost after having limited Rajasthan to 77 for 5 chasing 146. Niraj Patel saw his team through, making 40 off 29 and stealing two off the final delivery.
Siddhartha Talya is an editorial assistant at Cricinfo