Ahmedabad, April 13: Buoyed by their thrilling last-ball win against Delhi Daredevils, a confident Rajasthan Royals will take on a beleaguered Mumbai Indians in an Indian Premier League 2015 (IPL 8) encounter, here tomorrow.
Having won their first two matches on the road, the Steven Smith-led side will be playing their first match in their "adopted home" venue of Sardar Patel Stadium in Motera. (Sehwag calls Harbhajan 'mad')
For Royals, the tournament couldn't have started on a better note as they had two contrasting victories in their first two games. While the the 26-run win against Kings XI Punjab in Pune was a walk in the park, the Royals were stretched to the limit by Daredevils in their second match where Tim Southee got them home with a splendid last-ball boundary.
The IPL unearths new talent every year and the talk after the first five days has been about young Baroda all-rounder Deepak Hooda, who has surprised one and all with composure and big-hitting abilities.
The 25-ball-54 against DD has made the young Haryanvi 'talk of the town' and with Ajinkya Rahane and Smith for company, the youngster would be expected to blossom further.
For Mumbai Indians, it's been the worst start possible as they were comfortably beaten by seven wickets in their opening encounter against defending champions Kolkata Knight Riders while Harbhajan Singh's individual brilliance could not stop them from losing the second match by 18 runs.
On paper, Royals will start as favourites but MI can't be written off. Even during last season, they had lost five matches on trot in the UAE leg before recovering remarkably to make it to the play-offs.
But batting has been a bit of a bother for MI, who have icons like Sachin Tendulkar, Anil Kumble and Ricky Ponting on board to help the players. Barring Rohit Sharma in the first game and Harbhajan Singh in the second game, the MI top-order has not performed as per expectations.
Batting line-up is pretty solid
Australian opener Aaron Finch and India's middle-order batsman Ambati Rayudu have both looked out of sorts while Corey Anderson also has been a bit scratchy despite a half-century in the first match at the Eden Gardens.
But with the likes of Kieron Pollard, Finch, Rohit set to make amends for the last game, the task will be cut out for the likes of Chris Morris, Tim Southee and James Faulkner to use all their variations and change-ups in store on a batting-friendly Motera pitch which also provides some help for spinners.
The batting line-up is also pretty solid despite the absence of regular captain Shane Watson, who was out with a toe injury. But with current combination which has Smith, Faulkner, Southee and Morris as the four overseas cricketers in the playing XI, doing well, it will be interesting to see whether the regular captain can find his place in the team.
Mumbai Indians: Rohit Sharma (captain), Aaron Finch, Ambati Rayudu (wicketkeeper), Abhimanyu Mithun, Aditya Tare (wicketkeeper), Parthiv Patel, Keiron Pollard, Corey Anderson, Lasith Malinga, Harbhajan Singh, Jasprit Bumrah, Josh Hazlewood, Marchant de Lange, Pawan Suyal, Shreyas Gopal, Lendl Simmons, Pragyan Ojha, Mitchell McClenaghan, Aiden Blizzard, Akshay Wakhare, Nitish Rana, Sidhesh Lad, Hardik Pandya, Jagadeesha Suchitch, Unmukt Chand and R Vinay Kumar.
Rajasthan Royals: Shane Watson (captain), Abhishek Nayar, Ajinkya Rahane, Ankit Nagendra Sharma, Ben Cutting, Deepak Hooda, Dhawal Kulkarni, Dishant Yagnik (wicketkeeper), James Faulkner, Kane Richardson, Karun Nair, Pravin Tambe, Rahul Tewatia, Rajat Bhatia, Sanju Samson, Steven Smith, Stuart Binny, Tim Southee, Vikramjeet Malik, Chris Morris, Juan Theron, Barinder Singh Saran, Dinesh Salunkhe, Sagar Trivedi, Pradeep Sahu.
Match starts 8 PM IST