Although Rajasthan beat Punjab by 31 runs in Jaipur on April 6, that was just the start of the tournament and the latter have improved a lot since then.
Punjab are fresh from two consecutive victories against Indian Premier League ( IPL) giants Mumbai Indians and Royal Challengers Bangalore, and have 10 points from as many matches.
They have jumped to fourth place in the points table and are aiming for a win against Rajasthan in order to stay in contention for the play- offs.
Rajasthan Royals, who started well in the tournament, have hit a rough patch and with eight points from 10 matches, are languishing in seventh spot after four successive losses.
Punjab’s top order is their strongest aspect. Mandeep Singh, a 20- year- old right- handed batsman, is their highest run- getter with 277 runs in 10 matches. He is in form and can give Punjab a strong start with Shaun Marsh, who has 256 runs from nine matches.
Skipper David Hussey is a reliable batsman in crisis situations.
But Punjab’s problem is their middle order, which has not been consistent of late.
Punjab are strong on the bowling front, which can help them seize the early momentum if they field first on Saturday. Seamer Praveen Kumar might not have taken a lot of wickets but he is a miser.
Leg- spinner Piyush Chawla is Punjab’s most successful bowler with 12 wickets in 10 matches. He, along with seamers Parvinder Awana and Azhar Mahmood, can stifle the Rajasthan batting, which lacks consistency.
On the other hand, Rajatshan biggest drawback is their overdependence on their openers — skipper Rahul Dravid and Ajinkya Rahane, the highest run- getter.
Dravid has been the most consistent player in the team with scores of at least 25 or above in his last seven matches. He forms a formidable opening partnership with Rahane, who smashed a superb 98 off 66 in Rajasthan’s win against Punjab last month.
But once they are out, Rajasthan look like minnows.
Shane Watson is yet to settle in.
Owais Shah and Brad Hodge once looked great, but seem to have lost touch.
Rajasthan’s biggest concern will be their bowling. Their joint highest wicket- taker Kevon Cooper has pulled out after an injury. Watson needs to step up with the ball.
Story Author : Shaghil Bilali
Story Sharing Via : Yahoo Cricket