Will Rajasthan end Mumbai's unbeaten home run?
Having snatched victory from the jaws of defeat against Sunrisers Hyderabad, heavyweights Mumbai Indians will have their tails up when they take on Rajasthan Royals in their last Pepsi IPL home game, at the Wankhede stadium in Mumbai, on Wednesday.
Table-toppers Mumbai will take the positives from the match against Sunrisers Hyderabad at their impregnable bastion into the contest against a fighting fit and upbeat Rajasthan in what promises to be a no-holds barred contest.
The reward for another win for either team -- a sure shot place in the play-offs and a chance to finish the league in the top two positions – will spur both sides.
Mumbai all-rounder Kieron Pollard's blistering attack in the last four overs of Monday's match against Hyderabad must have sent alarm bells ringing for Rajasthan Royals, who are on a high after winning all eight home games.
Image: Mumbai Indians have been hard to beat at home this season
Rajasthan hoping for a repeat from Rahane
The earlier clash at Jaipur on April 17 was a disaster for Mumbai, who were bundled out for a lowly 92 in 18.2 overs, chasing the Royals imposing score of 179 for 3, built mainly around local boy Ajinkya Rahane's unbeaten 68 off 54 balls.
Similar to the visitors' unbeaten run at home, Mumbai too have been unscathed in seven games in their backyard this season but they very nearly came a cropper against Sunrisers on Monday night.
The best news for Mumbai is the return of Pollard at his best; he guided the team home despite needing more than two runs a ball when he arrived at the crease.
Image: Ajinkya Rahane
Pollard strikes timely form
Pollard's timely reminder of his abilities could not have come at a better time for the home team with the most important phase of the tournament coming up soon.
Mumbai have got decent, if not spectacular starts from Sachin Tendulkar and Dwayne Smith, in most of the games, but a worrying factor could be the senior India batsman's retirement from the crease on Monday, when on 38, after he felt uneasiness in his palm while hitting a six.
The dip in form of Smith in the last few games must also be causing a bit of concern and it remains to be seen whether Ricky Ponting makes a return to the playing eleven after sitting out many games due to lack of form.
Image: Kieron Pollard
Mumbai well-served by their pacers
Dinesh Karthik (435 runs from 14 games) and skipper Rohit Sharma, who has been in splendid form with 457 runs, including four half tons at just over 54 per innings, have been the middle order bulwarks.
With Pollard showing enough signs he can cause mayhem when required, especially at this ground where the track is good for hitting through the line, the lone worry in the middle has been the poor form of Ambati Rayudu, who has notched only 163 runs so far.
Mumbai bowling has been manned splendidly by pacers Mitchell Johnson and Lasith Malinga (20 and 13 wickets respectively) and the spin twins of Harbhajan Singh and Pragyan Ojha (17 and 14).
Image: Mitchell Johnson
Watson holds the key for Rajasthan
Rajasthan Royals too must also be pretty pleased with the recent run of Shane Watson, who is a match-winner with both bat and ball (483 runs and eight wickets from 12 games).
A Watson-Pollard skirmish within the larger battle also looks a mouth-watering prospect.
Rahane, for whom this is his Ranji Trophy home ground, is the visitor's most consistent batsman, with 433 runs from 14 games, along with skipper Rahul Dravid (387 from 14).
Image: Shane Watson
Binny Rajasthan's vital cog
The surprise packet is Stuart Binny, who has been a vital cog with his all-round prowess (219 runs and 5 wickets).
With the lanky James Faulkner (19 wickets) and Kevan Cooper (16) spearheading the new ball attack in splendid fashion, Royals' only worry could be lack of effective spin bowling options.
Both teams have one more league games in hand after Wednesday's match, Mumbai taking on Kings XI Punjab (May 18) and Royals lining up against Sunrisers (May 17).
The teams (from):
Rajasthan Royals: Rahul Dravid (Capt), Ajinkya Rahane, Ajit Chandila, Ankeet Chavan, Ashok Menaria, Brad Hodge, Brad Hogg, Dishant Yagnik, Harmeet Singh, James Faulkner, Kumar Boresha, Kevon Cooper, Kusal Janith Perera, Owais Shah, Pravin Tambe, Rahul Shukla, S Sreesanth, Sachin Baby, Samuel Badree, Sanju Samson, Shane Watson, Shaun Tait, Shreevats Goswami, Siddharth Trivedi, Stuart Binny, Vikramjeet Malik.
Mumbai Indians: Ricky Ponting (Capt), Abu Nechim Ahmed, Akshar Patel, Aditya Tare, Aiden Blizzard, Ambati Rayudu, Amitoze Singh, Dhawal Kulkarni, Dinesh Karthik, Dwayne Smith, Glenn Maxwell, Harbhajan Singh, Jacob Oram, Jalaj Saxena, James Franklin, Kieron Pollard, Lasith Malinga, Mitchell Johnson, Munaf Patel, Nathan Coulter-Nile, Phil Hughes, Pawan Suyal, Pragyan Ojha, Rishi Dhawan, Rohit Sharma, Sachin Tendulkar, Suryakumar Yadav, Sushant Marathe, Yuzvendra Singh Chahal.
Image: Stuart Binny