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April 4, 2010
Match factsMonday, April 5
Deccan Chargers are on a four-match losing run that threatens to end their IPL campaign early. Going into their return match against Rajasthan in Nagpur, Deccan will be anxious to snap the streak and reignite their title-defence.
Rajasthan Royals, coming off two successive losses, have worries of their own to deal with. In both defeats, their bowlers, who were at the forefront of their earlier resurgence, have wilted under pressure from attacking batsmen. Dinesh Karthik and M Vijay made them sweat on the field, while Gautam Gambhir talked them down off it. Shane Warne's men have already silenced their critics once this season, by stringing four consecutive wins after an abject start to the campaign. Monday offers a chance to reprise their favourite script.
They will find comfort in the fact that their opponents are not only going through a bigger crisis of confidence, but also suffer from the same weakness as they do - a bowling attack that leaks runs in the end overs. Deccan have conceded 11.81 runs in the last six overs, often undoing their good work at the start of the innings. Rajasthan have not fared much better, and the team that bleeds lesser from this Achilles heel is likely to gain two crucial points in Nagpur.
At this stage, only Mumbai and Delhi seem assured of semifinal spots, while five other teams are closely matched in the fight for the remaining two. Deccan and Rajasthan currently languish just above bottom-ranked Punjab, and victory on Monday will make the difference between moving into the midfield and stagnating on the scrapheap.
Form guide (most recent first)
Deccan Chargers: LLLLW
Rajasthan Royals: LLWWW
Sumit Narwal picked 3 for 36 in the defeat against Delhi, but on either side of that performance conceded a whopping 90 runs in five overs against Chennai. Siddharth Trivedi, who missed the last game, should take his spot. Shane Watson's inclusion has strengthened the batting, which means Paras Dogra is likely to miss out again.
Deccan are nowhere near solving their fast-bowling problems. Kemar Roach, who conceded 10 runs an over in his two games, was replaced by Ryan Harris, who went at exactly the same rate against Mumbai. Chaminda Vaas, who lost his spot to these two on reputation, deserves to reclaim the new ball. In five matches, he has eight wickets at 6.66 runs per over and could help Deccan's attack rediscover discipline. Two of the three Singhs - RP, Jaskaran and Harmeet - should make up the rest of the pace attack, but Adam Gilchrist will be counting on his in-form spinners, Pragyan Ojha and Rahul Sharma, to deliver.
Deccan 1, Rajasthan 4
Rajasthan have the upper hand in contests between the two teams so far, and the Ahmedabad hammering earlier in the tournament emphasised their dominance. Shaun Tait struck at crucial junctures to restrict Deccan to 148, before Yusuf, who was egged on by a verbal exchange with Symonds, smashed eight sixes to finish the chase in 15.4 overs.
In the spotlight
Shane Warne's dismissal of Herschelle Gibbs in Ahmedabad was reminiscent of his pomp, when the elements of turn, loop, drift and bounce all came together. While he has only managed six wickets in nine games, Warne has kept things reasonably quiet in the middle overs. The Rajasthan captain has the knack of lifting his game when it matters the most; expect a stirring performance from the greatest legspinner of all-time in this crucial game.
Herschelle Gibbs and Andrew Symonds have scored the most runs for Deccan this season - 237 and 232 respectively - but neither has been able to convert their uncharacteristically watchful starts into big contributions. Both of them have scored at strike-rates close to 120, and Deccan will hope that they can step it up on Monday.
"We have to win five out of the next six games. We have to get our act together or else we are out of the tournament."
Darren Lehmann, the Deccan coach, is clear about the task at hand. What about his team?
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