Jaipur: Buoyed by back-to-back comprehensive victories, a confident Rajasthan Royals would start outright favourites when they take on the lowly Pune Warriors in an Indian Premier League match on Sunday.
The hosts have shown remarkable grit to bounce back after three consecutive losses away from home.
After coming back to their own citadel, Shane Warne`s men have taken full advantage of the home conditions to upset Kochi Tuskers Kerala and Mumbai Indians with stunning performances.
The legendary leg-spinner has been outstanding tactically and as impressive as ever with the ball.
One of his most recent strategic masterstrokes came when he dared to open the attack with the unorthodox left-arm spin of youngster Ashok Menaria against the likes of Sachin Tendulkar and flamboyant Davy Jacobs.
Perhaps he had sensed that Menaria was rather an unknown bowler for the maestro.
South African Johan Botha has been in tremendous both with bat and ball. He has 177 runs from five matches and has been dismissed only once.
He also has picked four wickets including a 3 for 6 haul against Mumbai Indians.
Shane Watson and Ross Taylor are not in best of form but have come up with useful contributions with the willow but former India captain Rahul Dravid is yet to prove his worth for the team.
Relishing the home conditions, Rajasthan have won 11 matches at the Sawai Man Singh Stadium and lost just three. "We have been lucky here. We know a few things more about this ground like the angles to be blocked off and that gives us the extra confidence," Warne said.
The Pune Warriors, on the other hand, have lost five matches on the trot and need to play out of their skins to snap Rajasthan`s winning streak.
They are ninth on the points table with five defeats out of seven matches and have 4 points.
Though Skipper Yuvraj Singh and Jesse Ryder have more than 200 runs under their belt, the rest of the batting has left much to be desired.
Robin Uthappa has made good starts but has not been not at his best. Neither Mithun Manhas nor Nathan McCullum have been able to fill the void left by the injured Graeme Smith.
As a unit, Pune Warriors have failed to make an impression so far but they will have to put all that behind pretty quickly to bounce back.
The presence of Yuvraj, who had a nice time here as the rest of India skipper Irani Trophy, was able to get back into the Indian side after his fine performance in last September. He and Robin Uthappa are capable of destroying any attack on their day and Pune would be preying the do so on Sunday against Rajasthan Royals.
The Teams (from):
Rajasthan Royals: Shane Warne (C), Swapnil Asnodkar, Stuart Binny, Johan Botha, Deepak Chahar, Ankeet Chavan, Aakash Chopra, Aditya Dole, Nayan Doshi, Rahul Dravid, Samad Fallah, Faiz Fazal, Ashok Menaria, Sumit Narwal, Jacob Oram,
Pankaj Singh, Amit Paunikar, Ajinkya Rahane, Abhishek Raut, Dinesh Salunkhe, Pinal Shah, Amit Singh, Shaun Tait, Ross Taylor, Siddharth Trivedi, Shane Watson and Dishant Harendra Yagnik.
Pune Warriors: Yuvraj Singh (C), Robin Uthappa (wk), Murali Kartik, Abhishek Jhunjhunwala, Bhuvaneshwar Kumar, Deeraj Jadhav, Eklavya Dwivedi, Ganesh Gaikwad, Harpreet Singh Bhatia, Harshad Khadiwale, Kamran Khan, Mithun Manhas, Mohnish Mishra, Rahul Sharma, Sachin Rana, Shrikant Wagh, Shrikant
Mundhe, Imtiyaz Ahmed, Jesse Ryder, Graeme Smith, Wayne Parnell, Alphonso Thomas, Tim Paine, Callum Ferguson, Mitchell Marsh, Jerome Taylor, James Faulkner.