Bangalore and Rajasthan eye crucial win
Wednesday, April 14
Start time 2000 (1430 GMT)
A win on Wednesday, for either side, will be a huge step towards a spot in the final four. Rajasthan Royals and Royal Challengers Bangalore are coming off painful losses, during which they failed to grab key opportunities, and are tied on 12 points with three other teams. Whoever loses this encounter will then have to win their final game convicningly, and will still need other results to go their way. So tight is the points table that neither Shane Warne nor Anil Kumble would want to leave the fates of their sides to outside chance.
The stakes are higher for Rajasthan, given that their position is weaker thanks to a net run rate of -0.288 that currently leaves them fifth in the points table. Their fortunes have changed remarkably since their first meeting with Bangalore. The defeat in that game was Rajasthan's third in a row, and their campaign looked in shambles. Since then, they strung together four consecutive wins before dropping two, followed by a win and a loss. Through their topsy-turvy tournament, they have remained in contention thanks in no small part to the leadership of Shane Warne, who has again managed to get a lot out of his inexperienced players. Now it is crunch time and it'll take more than the odd canny bowling change or inspired field placement to take them further.
Rajasthan's main area of concern going into the match will be the state of their batting. In their previous match they failed to put up a fight in a stiff chase against Mumbai, after losing three crucial wickets to run-outs. To avoid another such mishap, they need their batsmen to regain control and Yusuf Pathan, in the midst of a slump, at his aggressive best. Their chances will also depend on the batting of the openers and the all-round abilities of Shane Watson.
Bangalore's campaign has also lost steam after a strong start, and both batsmen and bowlers are to be blamed. In the last match, the batting approach was quixotic, with Jacques Kallis' slow-coach ways in contrast to Rahul Dravid's fluency. It was down to Robin Uthappa's clean hitting to lift the middle order after four wickets fell in consecutive overs. Too much was left on his plate and he fell just when he seemed to be scripting a classic. In the losses before that game, the bowlers lost the plot, failing to defend 184 against Deccan, and conceding as many against Delhi. The strong batting line-up has been patchy, often putting too much pressure on Kallis who cannot shift gears easily. The side that was branded a Test team in 2008 seems to slipping towards that label.
Form guide (most recent first)
One of Rajasthan's highly regarded domestic players, Aditya Dole, dropped the match against Mumbai, and even a spirited innings down the order may not be enough to keep him in the playing XI. There could also be a recall for Shaun Tait at the expense of Adam Voges, given the way Sachin Tendulkar punished their seam attack.
Bangalore's middle order has been a worry throughout the tournament, despite how strong it looks on paper, and it is foreseeable that Kevin Pietersen returns in place of Cameron White. The bowlers did wonderfully to try and set up the chase in the previous match, and the only disappointment was KP Appanna, who could face the axe for this key clash.
In the spotlight
Shane Warne: Few will doubt his leadership skills, but Warne the bowler has yet to really make an impact in the IPL. He has struggled to make the breakthroughs and his one stellar outing had more to do with Deccan Chargers' nerves than his own magic. His ineffectiveness against Tendulkar proved critical in the defeat against Mumbai: Tendulkar took him for three boundaries in an over, and 23 runs overall from 15 balls. Those boundaries changed the tone of Tendulkar's game and he revived Mumbai from a disastrous start to a big total.
Siddharth Trivedi: He has been Warne's go-to man ever since he returned to the line-up after missing the first few games, and his fall-ball delivery is the slower one. It has foxed several batsmen this year and was a key weapon in the end overs against Deccan. However, things went awry against Mumbai and his 20-run final over hurt Rajasthan. He'll hope it was an off-day, but with the margin for error narrowing, Trivedi may have to try something else tomorrow.
Ross Taylor: The man who is keeping Kevin Pietersen out of the line-up has not delivered this season. In the last game Taylor was yorked by RP Singh for one off five balls in a pressure situation; in the previous game against Deccan he was trapped lbw by Pragyan Ojha for 1. Against Delhi Daredevils he fell slogging Rajat Bhatia for 22 off 10 to open up the floodgates. Teams seem to have figured out Taylor's penchant for deep square-leg and deep midwicket, so they've not been feeding him much on the middle and leg line. The spinners, importantly, haven't given any air and the manner in which Ojha beat him for pace was telling. Bhatia too got him with a slow off-cutter. Taylor needs to start thinking out of the box if he's going to make an impact.
Rajasthan 3 Bangalore 2
Rajasthan's first match against Bangalore this season was utter disaster - they were bowled out for 92 and the home side steamed to a ten-wicket win.
- Anil Kumble has the edge over Shane Warne in terms of their bowling numbers in IPL 2010. Kumble has 11 wickets to Warne's 10. Kumble concedes 6.16 per over, while Warne is far more expensive, going for 7.74.
- Overall too, Bangalore's spinners have done better than Rajasthan's. Slow bowlers from either side have taken 15 wickets each, but while Bangalore's average 30.20 per wicket and 6.88 per over, Rajasthan's average 43.93 per wicket and 7.56 per over.
- Warne has dismissed Bangalore's top-order pair of Jacques Kallis and Rahul Dravid 19 times in international cricket: Kallis has fallen to him 11 times and Dravid eight.
- Both Kallis and Naman Ojha have been prolific openers, outscoring their team-mates by some distance, but the telling point has been Ojha's strike-rate. Against Kallis' 121.37, which has at times hurt Bangalore, Ojha's healthy 138.58 is a boost for a side lacking muscle.
"Kallis has won us a couple of games earlier but today he got stuck; You can't expect someone like Robin Uthappa to see you through."
Anil Kumble's message to his most prolific batsman is loud and clear
Jamie Alter is a senior sub-editor at Cricinfo