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April 14, 2010
Series/Tournaments: Indian Premier League
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)
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
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.
Anil Kumble's message to his most prolific batsman is loud and clear
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Plays of the day from the CLT20 game between Kolkata Knight Riders and Chennai Super Kings