Mumbai: Still in with a chance to make the playoffs, title-holders Mumbai Indians will take on former champions Rajasthan Royals here on Sunday in what would be a virtual knock-out game to make the final four of the Indian Premier League.
The rival teams will go into the game after knowing whether the third team still in the running to nail the fourth and last spot in the four-team playoff, Sun Risers Hyderabad, would be standing or have fallen by the wayside after their last round robin game against qualifiers Kolkata Knight Riders tonight.
Rajasthan are the front-runners to make the knockout stage with 14 points in their kitty and need to just defeat Mumbai to sail through. But it would be difficult task in the Mumbai`s fortress which has been breached just once by Chennai Super Kings going back to last season.
Rajasthan, who were beaten by table-toppers Kings XI Punjab at Mohali, have a better net run-rate of +.247.
Mumbai, on 12 points, seem to be on a roll after convincing back to back wins over Kings XI Punjab on May 21 and Delhi Daredevils. They have a Net Run Rate of -.086 and would not only have to win but do it with a handsome margin to make the grade.
Mumbai produced some good performances after the IPL switched back to India following the first phase in the UAE where Rohit Sharma and his men tasted five defeats in a row.
The team has shown character and determination to bounce back from this dismal beginning, a point noted by their veteran Australian opener Michael Hussey after the win over the bottom-placed Daredevils.
When the two teams met previously at Ahmedabad on May 19, Mumbai emerged convincing victors by 25 runs, but the hosts are missing the services of their death-bowling king Lasith Malinga who is busy representing Sri Lanka in the series in England.
Added to this was the freak ankle injury sustained by their late recruit Praveen Kumar yesterday after the toss, following the loss of the key bowler he had replaced -- Zaheer Khan -- due to a side strain. He`s a doubtful starter against the Royals.
On the plus side for Mumbai has been the return to form of Hussey, after a string of low scores in UAE that cost him his place in the playing eleven, and his successful opening combination with West Indian Lend Simmons who has scored the only century of the tournament so far.
If these two batsmen, who hit half centuries against the same opponents at Ahmedabad, provide the right platform, there skipper Rohit Sharma and the big hitting Kieron Pollard can blast away in the latter part of the innings.
In bowling, the addition of young Karnataka leg-spinner Shreyas Gopal has added teeth with Harbhajan Singh being in his elements. Even left-arm spinner Pragyan Ojha turned the ball sharply last night and troubled Daredevils skipper Kevin Pietersen.
Mumbai have zeroed in on Marchant de Lange after trying out Krishmar Santokie and the former bowled well at the death against the Daredevils, while young Jasprit Bumrah has done well in the initial overs.
The visitors, on the other hand, possess a very good line up but need to send their power hitters Brad Hodge and James Faulkner much higher up the order than they had done in the recent past.
Captain Shane Watson has to quickly put behind his first ball duck in the last match. In talented in-form opener Ajinkya Rahane, Rajasthan have someone who knows how to play on this ground very well.
Royals` spin department is a bit of a worry and it was strange to see them use a second leg-spinner -- Rahul Tewatia -- instead of giving a chance to left-arm spinner Iqbal Abdulla, another player who knows Wankhede as the back of his hand, to complement Pravin Tambe against Punjab .
The Royals, who have a host of Mumbai Ranji Trophy players in their team, need to produce something extraordinary to stop the confident-looking hosts from stealing the march.
Rajasthan Royals: Shane Watson (c), Ajinkya Rahane, James Faulkner, Stuart Binny, Sanju Samson, Brad Hodge, Steven Smith, Abhishek Nayar, Ben Cutting, Kane Richardson, Tim Southee, Unmukt Chand, Ankush Bains, Vikramjeet Malik, Rahul Tewatia, Ankit Sharma, Amit Mishra, Deepak Hooda, Rajat Bhatia, Kevon Cooper, Iqbal Abdulla, Dhawal Kulkarni, Pravin Tambe, Karun Nair, Dishant Yagnik.
Mumbai Indians: Mumbai Indians: Rohit Sharma (c), Corey Anderson, Jasprit Bumrah, Marchant de Lange, Ben Dunk, Chidhambaram Gautam, Shreyas Gopal, Harbhajan Singh, Josh Hazlewood, Michael Hussey, Praveen Kumar, Sushant Marathe, Pragyan Ojha, Kieron Pollard, Ambati Rayudu, Krishmar Santokie, Lendl Simmons, Pawan Suyal, Aditya Tare, Apoorv Wankhade.