With Rajasthan Royal's IPL 2018 season hanging by a thread, the Ajinkya Rahane-led take on the mighty Chennai Super Kings at the Sawai Mansingh Stadium in Jaipur on Friday night. After losing three consecutive matches, Rajasthan managed to keep their slim hopes of qualifying for the playoffs alive with a 15-run win over Kings XI Punjab. CSK, on the other hand, are sitting pretty in second spot in the IPL Points Table with 14 points from 10 games and a win in their remaining four games should be enough to seal their place in the playoffs. (Play Fantasy Cricket & Win Lakhs everyday!)
But it will be easier said than done for CSK, despite Rajasthan's poor IPL 2018 form. The Royals have just won four matches this season in 10 matches and three of those wins have come at their home ground of Sawai Mansingh Stadium.
This match will also be a chance for Rajasthan to avenge a 64-run humiliation at the hands of CSK at Pune in their previous encounter.
Average performance by captain Rahane and Sanju Samson and below-par show of star English all-rounder Ben Stokes and Rahul Tripathi has hurt Royals badly and the hosts need their batting unit to fire in unison against the formidable CSK.
English wicket-keeper batsman Jos Buttler came to Royals' rescue in their last match smashing a 58-ball 82 to take the hosts to 158 for eight, a target which their bowlers defended, thanks to impressive performances from Krishnappa Gowtham, Kiwi spinner Ish Sodhi and Jofra Archer.
Returning to the tournament after serving a two-year suspension, CSK are in red-hot form this season under talismanic skipper MS Dhoni.
Their batsmen are in top form but bowling still remains a concern for CSK, despite a fine performance against Royal Challengers Bangalore in their last game.
CSK bowlers finally came to the party on May 5, restricting RCB to 127 for nine, a target which they chased down with six wickets in hand.
Left-arm spinner Ravindra Jadeja (3/18) and veteran Harbhajan Singh (2/22) were the wrecker-in-chief for CSK against RCB.
However, the pace trio of Lungi Ngidi, David Willey and Shardul Thakur need to shoulder more responsibility upfront in the absence of injured Deepak Chahar.
The Chennai batsmen, though, are on fire and most are among runs with Ambati Rayudu, Australian Shane Watson, West Indian Dwayne Bravo, skipper Dhoni and Suresh Raina all contributing when the team has needed them.
Rayudu, especially, has batted well both as an opener and at number four, and is currently in third position in the run-scorers chart with 423 runs from 10 games.
Skipper Dhoni, on his part, has reminded his critics that he is not past his prime with his trademark towering sixes.
Dhoni is seventh on the run-getters list with 360 runs that include three half-centuries with 79 not out being the highest.
Rajasthan Royals: Ajinkya Rahane(captain), Ben Stokes, Stuart Binny, Sanju Samson, Jos Buttler, Rahul Tripathi, D Arcy Short, Krishnappa Gowtham, Jofra Archer, Dhawal Kulkarni, Jaydev Unadkat, Ankit Sharma, Anureet Singh, Shreyas Gopal, Prashant Chopra, Sudhesan Midhun, Ben Laughlin, Mahipal Lomror, Aryaman Birla, Jatin Saxena, Dushmantha Chameera, Heinrich Klaasen, Ish Sodhi.
Chennai Super Kings: MS Dhoni (captain), Suresh Raina, Ravindra Jadeja, Faf du Plessis, Harbhajan Singh, Dwayne Bravo, Shane Watson, Ambati Rayudu, KM Asif, Kanishk Seth, Lungi Ngidi, Dhruv Shorey, Murali Vijay, Sam Billings, Mark Wood, Kshitiz Sharma, Monu Kumar, Chaitanya Bishnoi, Imran Tahir, Karn Sharma, Shardul Thakur, N Jagadeesan, David Willey.
(With PTI Inputs)