Will Miller prove 'Killer' against Rajasthan?
As the IPL moves closer to the play-off stage, Rajasthan Royals will be looking to guard against complacency when they take on an unpredictable Kings XI Punjab in their Indian Premier League match in Mohali on Thursday.
Led by 40-year-old experienced campaigner Rahul Dravid, the Royals have won eight games out of 12 and are placed third on the table, while Punjab, with five wins from 11 matches, are in contention of a play-off berth.
The hosts will draw confidence from their dramatic six-wicket win over a formidable Royal Challengers Bangalore in their last tie -- chasing a mammoth 191-run target, KXIP's South African import David Miller single-handedly bailed out the team from desperate situation and won them the match.
'Killer' Miller, an adage the batsman has acquired from Punjab fans, had struck a 38-ball 101.
His ability to bring the team out from tight spots on few other occasions this season has made Miller an extremely dependable player. He had earlier struck a 41-ball 80 against Pune Warriors.
Image: David Miller
Punjab's bowling has been their strength
Apart from Miller, Australian Shaun Marsh is another key player, who along with Mandeep Singh could easily counter the opposition bowling attack.
With David Hussey leading the team in the absence of an under-performing Gilchrist, who dropped himself from the team in the last few matches, the team has looked good on home turf. They will also be keen to take maximum advantage with two more home matches.
Punjab have shown the stomach for a fight with some close finishes but they need to put up an all-round performance to get the better of a strong Jaipur outfit. The have to win at least four of the remaining five games to stand a chance for the play-off berth.
By and large, Punjab's bowling has been their strength, with Praveen Kumar getting the ball to swing early on and bowling at a decent economy rate, while Parvinder Awana and leg spinner Piyush Chawla have also chipped in with wickets.
On Thursday, they will be looking to fire in unison.
Image: Praveen Kumar
Dravid leading by example
While Punjab's morale is high after the unlikely win against RCB, the Royals are also riding high on confidence, having registered a comprehensive nine-wicket win over laggards Delhi Daredevils at Jaipur on Tuesday.
The visitors would also take heart from the fact that three weeks ago they had bowled out Punjab for just 124 to inflict a crushing six-wicket defeat on them.
Dravid has led from the front and along with Ajinkya Rahane, provided solid starts. In the last encounter against Delhi, the openers hit half-centuries each as the Royals registered their seventh win at home (Jaipur).
Australian all-rounder Shane Watson and 18-year-old Kerala lad Sanju Samson have been the positives for Royals.While Watson has been among the runs and picked up wickets, Samson is the find of the season for them. His useful contributions with the bat have provided the Jaipur outfit some much-needed impetus in the middle-order.
Image: Rahul Dravid
Faulkner has been on the money for Royals
Besides, the likes of Brad Hodge, Stuart Binny and Dishant Yagnik have also provided good solidity.
On the bowling front, left-arm pacer James Faulkner, who is leading wicket taker with 18 scalps that also included the first five-wicket haul of this season against Sunrisers Hyderabad, has been excellent. Sidharth Trivedi and Binny have also done well.
In the spin department, the Royals have Ajit Chandila, and with 41-year-old leg-spinner Pravin Tambe making his T20 debut for the Royals the other night, it will be interesting to see how Punjab batsmen treat the opposition spin attack.
The Royals will be keen to register yet another victory, knowing that the current positions in the points table could change with competition among top teams for securing the play-off berths getting fiercer.
Rajasthan Royals: Rahul Dravid (c), Ajinkya Rahane, Sanju Samson (wk), Shane Watson, Brad Hodge, Stuart Binny, Owais Shah, James Faulkner, Ajit Chandila, Siddharth Trivedi, S Sreesanth, Brad Hogg, Fidel Edwards, Kevon Cooper, Kushal Perera, Samuel Badree, Shaun Tait, Ankit Chavan, Ashok Maneria, Dishant Yagnik, Harmeet Singh, Kumar Borsea, Pravin Thambe, Rahul Shukla, Sachin Baby, Shreevats Goswami, Vikramjeet Malik.
Kings XI Punjab: Adam Gilchrist (c), Mandeep Singh, Luke Pomersbach, David Miller, Manan Vohra, David Hussey, Piyush Chawla, Praveen Kumar, Harmeet Singh, Bhargav Bhatt, ParvinderAwana, Azhar Mahmood, Bipul Sharma, Siddharth Chitnis, Aniket Choudhary, Manpreet Gony, Gurkeerat Singh Mann, Shaun Marsh, Dimitri Mascernhas, Nitin Saini, Sandeep Sharma, Rajagopal Sathish, Sunny Singh, Paul Valthaty.
Image: James Faulkner