A combination of luck and good cricket has put Rajasthan Royals on a firm footing in Group A of the Champions League Twenty20 2013. Rajasthan garnered four points due to their win against Mumbai Indians in the CLT20 opener, while the washout in Ahmedabad on Monday (September 23) ensured that no other team in Group A has more than two points.
Rajasthan enjoyed a three-day break after their match against Mumbai, and will now face Highveld Lions in the second match of a double-header on Wednesday at the Sawai Mansingh Stadium in Jaipur. However, despite the break, Rajasthan will fancy themselves in a better position with regard to match fitness, as the Lions were one of the teams affected by the Ahmedabad rain.
Rajasthan have had the advantage of being stationed in the same location, and they had a full training session on Tuesday too. The Lions will hope their training sessions before the CLT20, including a four-day camp in Potchefstroom, hold them in good stead and have taken care of any rustiness.
The match will be played on a pitch adjacent to the one on which Rajasthan beat Mumbai. There is also no rain forecast, and this could well be a slightly more batting-friendly surface. The Lions, who are South Africa's domestic Twenty20 champions, have a strong bowling attack led by Sohail Tanvir and Lonwabo Tsotsobe, and will be hopeful that the bowlers will click whatever the conditions are.
Tanvir has happy memories of playing in Jaipur, after playing one of the starring roles in Rajasthan's title triumph in IPL 2008, and this will almost feel like a homecoming for him. He was the best bowler in the inaugural IPL by a distance, and he topped the T20 bowling charts for the Lions in the last season too, taking 16 wickets in ten matches at 14.56 with an economy rate of just 6.13.
The Lions' spinners, Imran Tahir and Aaron Phangiso, are experienced, but even if both are part of the playing XI, they'll be the support cast to Tanvir and the other pacers.
Rajasthan, as always, will depend on a team effort to see them through. "We don't depend on any individual bowler or batsman, we want to play as a team the way we did against Mumbai," said Ajinkya Rahane, their opening batsman.
Rahane shared a crucial 79-run stand with Sanju Samson that set the platform for Rajasthan's win against Mumbai. The conditions at the Sawai Mansingh Stadium were more conducive to batsmen playing with soft hands rather than going hard at the ball, and Rajasthan's top order of Rahane, Rahul Dravid and Samson are ideally suited to batting in that fashion.
Shane Watson, of course, can neutralise the conditions when set, and he will continue to be the pivot of Rajasthan's batting line-up.
The Lions, led by Alviro Petersen, should also be confident of their batsmen succeeding, with Quinton de Kock and Petersen himself leading the way. Neil McKenzie, with his vast experience, is ideally suited to playing the holding role and letting the others be more expansive.
While short on match practice, the Lions are no strangers to the CLT20, having qualified for the third time. They have the depth in their squad in batting and bowling to pose a serious threat to Rajasthan's spotless home record in 2013.
On paper, the Lions are among the stronger sides in Group A, and with Mumbai's loss and washout putting them in a spot of bother, this tie could be potentially crucial. The winners will be that much closer to a semifinal spot.
Rajasthan Royals: Rahul Dravid (capt), Ajinkya Rahane, Stuart Binny, Sanju Samson (wk), Ashok Menaria, Dishant Yagnik, Vikramjeet Malik, Harmeet Singh, Rahul Shukla, Pravin Tambe, Shane Watson, Brad Hodge, James Faulkner, Kevon Cooper, Shaun Tait.
Highveld Lions: Alviro Petersen (capt), Temba Bavuma, Gulam Bodi, Quinton De Kock (wk), Neil McKenzie, Lonwabo Tsotsobe, Ethan O'Reilly, Hardus Viljoen, Rassie van der Dussen, Aaron Phangiso, Dwaine Pretorius, Jean Symes, Imran Tahir, Sohail Tanvir.