Jaipur: With just two weeks left for the playoffs of the Pepsi Indian Premier League 2013, the race for a place in the last four has gained momentum. Rajasthan Royals, with 14 points from 11 games, have a chance to strengthen their position when they take on the eighth-ranked Delhi Daredevils in their penultimate home game at the Sawai Mansingh Stadium in Jaipur on Tuesday (May 7).
Rajasthan are part of a tightly packed top half of the points table, with only net run-rate separating them from three other teams - Mumbai Indians, Sunrisers Hyderabad and Royal Challengers Bangalore. Their aim, therefore, will be to beat Delhi by a big margin in order to break free from the clutter.
The temperature in Jaipur is expected to touch 41 degree Celsius, and persistent heat waves will make the weather a major factor in this 4pm fixture. Rajasthan will take heart from the fact that they have won all six home games this season. Their sole away win came against Delhi, when Kevon Cooper's excellent death bowling helped them snatch a five-run win despite David Warner's 77.
At home, on four out of six occasions Rajasthan have restricted the opponent to less than 150. But the bowlers have their work cut out after an erratic show against Pune Warriors India on Sunday. They bowled as many as 11 wides and failed to stick to one side of the wicket, making it difficult for Rahul Dravid to set fields. It is an error they can ill afford against the class of Virender Sehwag and Mahela Jayawardene.
After five poor outings, Ajinkya Rahane's return to form against Pune could not have come at a better time. The presence of Umesh Yadav, who is currently Delhi's best bowler with 13 wickets and has been a regular tormentor of Rajasthan in the past, makes Rahane's role doubly important. If he can manage to wither Yadav's pace and stay long enough at the crease then Dravid, Shane Watson, Brad Hodge and Stuart Binny can control the pace of the game accordingly. Add Sanju Samson's fine touch, and Rajasthan have their bases covered against a Delhi attack that has been largely off colour this season.
Delhi's main worry has been their inability to find the right team balance and their failure to close out matches from winning positions. However, the script of their three wins has been similar. It has been built on good scores from either Sehwag, Jayawardene or Warner, backed by some good bowling and fielding.
Being bundled out for just 80 against Hyderabad in their last game would have scarred the team's morale, but if all the three departments can put up a synchronised performance against Rajasthan, it will bring some cheer back in the camp.
Rajasthan Royals: Rahul Dravid (capt), Ajinkya Rahane, Shane Watson, Sanju Samson (wk), Brad Hodge, Stuart Binny, James Faulkner, Ajit Chandila, Sachin Baby, Owais Shah, Rahul Shukla, Kevon Cooper, Siddharth Trivedi, Dishant Yagnik (wk), S Sreesanth, Ankeet Chavan, Kumar Boresa, Fidel Edwards, Samuel Badree, Shreevats Goswami (wk), Harmeet Singh, Brad Hogg, Vikramjeet Malik, Ashok Menaria, Kushal Perera (wk), Amit Singh, Shaun Tait, Pravin Tambe.
Delhi Daredevils: Mahela Jayawardene (capt), Virender Sehwag, Unmukt Chand, David Warner, Johan Botha, Kedar Jadhav (wk), Irfan Pathan, Umesh Yadav, Morne Morkel, Roelof van der Merwe, Andre Russell, Jeevan Mendis, Naman Ojha (wk), Manprit Juneja, Varun Aaron, Ajit Agarkar, Gulam Bodi, Royston Dias, CM Gautam (wk), Siddarth Kaul, Shahbaz Nadeem, Yogesh Nagar, Sujit Nayak, Pawan Negi, Ashish Nehra, Aristh Singhvi, Bharat Chipli.