25th May 2014

DATE: 25th May, 2014
VENUE: Wankhede Stadium, Mumbai
TIME: 20:00 (IST)

Perhaps the most crucial match of the league stage, Mumbai Indians take on Rajasthan Royals in the final league fixture of the season.

The equation is pretty straightforward. A victory for the Rajasthan Royals will mean they sail through to the Playoffs, while a convincing win for the Mumbai Indians - with a margin that will nudge their net run-rate above Rajasthan Royals' - will catapult them into fourth place in the standings.

Mumbai Indians have faced a do-or-die situation in their last few matches. That they are still alive in the race for the fourth Playoffs spot speaks volumes about the passion, ability and hunger within the team. The defending champions defeated Delhi Daredevils, Kings XI Punjab and Rajasthan Royals in their last three matches - each of these wins was convincing. MI definitely head into this match as favourites.

With their diminished bowling attack, the focus will be on Mumbai Indians' batting line-up to win them the match. The right-left opening pair, arguably the impenetrable opening pair, of Lendl Simmons and Michael Hussey will be expected to set up a platform from which the likes of Rohit Sharma and Kieron Pollard can launch. That 14 of Hussey's 15 50-plus scores in the IPL have resulted in wins for his team illustrates the kind of impact he can have on the match. Given the situation is intense; MI players will be in fierce attack mode to clinch the berth in the playoffs. Though the bowling attack has been weakened by Malinga's absense, Shreyas Gopal has lived upto team's expectations bagging wickets at crucial stages of the matches.

Rajasthan Royals, meanwhile, have been perched in the top half of the table for most part of the season. However, the team hasn't sustained the momentum as it did in the middle part of the season, resulting in the gap between them and the rest of the teams narrowing down. In their most recent outing, they fell short of 180-run target set by Kings XI Punjab by 16 runs.

The first thing Rajasthan Royals need to get right is making best use of their resources. Either Ajinkya Rahane or Shane Watson needs to bat well into the second half of the innings. Further, the more overs the likes of Steve Smith, Brad Hodge and James Faulkner bat out, the better it is for their team. Stuart Binny will have to justify his position in the playing 11 as he has failed in most of the previous matches. Samson too, will have to spend longer time at crease adding runs. Pravin Tambe and Rahul Tewatia has been excellent, the pacers however, will also have to show their mettle in the match. Faulkner may have scored runs with his bat, but he has given far too many runs when he bowled. His controlled bowling will be very helpful for the team in the vital match.

RR's experimentation will need to have a serious recheck if they are looking to make it to the next level of the tournament. Moreover, if RR needs to maintain the specified NRR, every member of the playing 11 will have to be at his best without any mistakes on field.

Head To Head: 13
RR: 5 MI: 8

In the five meetings between the two teams in Mumbai - played at three different venues (Wankhede Stadium, Brabourne Stadium and DY Patil Stadium) - the Mumbai Indians have a 4-1 win-loss record.

In the most recent meeting between the two teams - in Ahmedabad on 19 May 2014 - MI posted 178/3 (riding on a 120-run opening partnership between Lendl Simmons and Michael Hussey, and a late charge by Rohit Sharma) and then restricted the hosts to 153/8.

Shane Watson has opted to field first in 6 of the 8 matches where he has won the toss this season.

The surface at Wankhede Stadium has changed a lot in recent times. In the last 12 matches played at the venue, 9 have been won by the team batting first. In 12 matches prior to that, 8 were won by the team chasing.

Question: Name the players to watch out for in the match - MI vs RR. If your selected players play well, you will stand a chance to win RR merchandise.


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