The match between Rajasthan Royals and Chennai Super Kings a couple of days back was to decide who was to remain the unbeaten team in the event. On paper, Chennai were definitely the stronger of the two sides, and traditionally as well, they have had the upper hand over the Royals. But, the latter proved that they are a much more dangerous outfit than they were last season, coming out with a sizzling display to outdo a side full of superstar. Winning five matches out of five is some achievement, and the Royals would only be more than happy to continue their merry run against Kings XI Punjab, who are still searching their winning combination.
The key to Rajasthan's success has been their all-round efficiency in the games that they have played. Ajinkya Rahane has been rock solid, coming up with significant performances in almost every match. Against Chennai as well, he stood up and led the chase. In fact, he has been so consistent that Royals have got used to the comfort of having him out in the middle. One wonders how they will manage in case Rahane falls early, for the experience seems alien to them.
Another major boost for Rajasthan in the triumph against Chennai was the return of Shane Watson from injury, and more significantly a highly impressive one at that. While he was decent with the bat, the Rajasthan batsman came out, and smashed the ball as if he had never taken an injury break. Normally batsmen take some time to recover, but Watson was right on the money. Rajasthan would also be hoping for the talented youngster Deepak Hooda to continue to impressive run.
Not only in the batting, but bowling wise as well, Rajasthan have been impactful. Without doubt, Pravin Tambe has been their most impressive, tying things down, but the rest have chipped in nicely too. Tim Southee, Chris Morris and James Faulkner have formed a rather formidable pace attack while Stuart Binny has provided decent back up.
For Punjab, their problem has been pretty simple. Their big names in the batting just haven't fired. Virender Sehwag and Murali Vijay, both have got starts, but haven't made them count. Even more disappointingly, Glenn Maxwell and David Miller haven't dazzled as they did last season. George Bailey has batted with gusto, but it has been a one-man show. Punjab's bowling has been impressive to be fair. The likes of Sandeep Sharma and Anureet Singh have bowled some probing spells. But, they need more out of Mitchell Johnson, and even more out of their batsmen.
--By A Cricket Analyst