Mumbai, May 12: Mumbai Indians and Rajasthan Royals will face off in a must-win tie here on Sunday, with both teams looking to make it to the play-offs of the Indian Premier League (IPL) Twenty20 cricket championship.
Both fourth-placed Mumbai and sixth-placed Rajasthan have 10 points each from 11 matches and are very much in contention to be in the top four at the end of the round-robin stage.
Top-placed Sunrisers Hyderabad, who have 18 points from 11 games, are the only team to have booked a place in the play-offs. Second-placed Chennai Super Kings are second with 14 points from 11 games, while Kings XI Punjab are third with 12 points from 10 games.
Moreover, the game on Sunday evening at the Wankhede Stadium is also crucial because the winning side will keep the losing team away from the race to the play-offs.
Mumbai are coming into the game on the back of hat-trick of wins over Kings XI Punjab and Kolkata Knight Riders, who played them twice.
In Mumbai, they defeated Kolkata by 13 runs, defending a total of 181/6, before the side travelled to Bengal and condemned the hosts to a 102-run victory, riding on Ishan Kisdhan's 21-ball 62 blast.
These wins have seen three-time champions Mumbai jump to the fourth spot despite a disastrous start to their campaign.
Suryakumar Yadav has been Mumbai's standout batsman, contributing 435 runs, even as the other batters have been inconsistent, with captain Rohit Sharma and Evin Lewis scoring 267 and 265 runs respectively. Runs are also expected from Ishan Kishan and all-rounders Hardik Pandya and his brother Krunal.
Mumbai's bowling, even though floored KKR in their last match, needs improvement in the death overs. The likes of New Zealander Mitchell McClenaghan (12 wickets) and Hardik (16 wickets) have failed to keep it tight. Jasprit Bumrah (12 wickets), and young leggie Mayank Markande (14 wickets) also have to buck up.
Mumbai's opponent, Rajasthan will also come with high confidence. having registered two back-to-back wins against Punjab CSK and Punjab, thanks to two fantastic knocks of 82 and 95 not out from English wicketkeeper-batsman Jos Buttler. In their last game, Buttler carried his bat with a 95 not out to see his team through by four wickets against CSK.
But skipper Ajinkya Rahane will expect his team to get their act together and aim for consistency as several must-win games have been lined up for them.
Buttler (415 runs), Sanju Samson (353 runs) have been the top two batsmen for them and expectations will be high on them. Rahane (243 runs) and Ben Stokes (185) have been below-par and head coach Shane Warne will be relieved if they fire on Sunday.
Stokes was promoted to open the innings in their previous game but he managed 11 runs and will be interesting to see which position he comes to bat.
Stokes, the costliest buy in IPL auction 2018, has also failed in his bowling, picking up only three wickets so far.
Among the bowlers, young seamer Jofra Archer has done well to claim 11 wickets from six matches while this IPL's costliest Indian buy Jaydev Unadkat has also been amongst the wickets (eight) but has proved costly with his economy rate at 9.63.
Spinner Krishnappa Gowtham has bagged eight wickets from 11 matches, while New Zealand leg-spinner Ish Sodhi too has been impressive, picking three wickets from three games with an economy rate of 6.18. They need to continue the good work against a strong batting unit of Mumbai. IANS