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Updated: May 24, 2013 01:33 IST

Deliver or depart time

S. Sabanayakan
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Harbhajan Singh (left) and Keiron Pollard will need no reminding of the important task ahead in the Qualifier on Friday. Photo: K.R Deepak
The Hindu Harbhajan Singh (left) and Keiron Pollard will need no reminding of the important task ahead in the Qualifier on Friday. Photo: K.R Deepak

Rajasthan and Mumbai to compete for a spot in Sunday’s final

In the absence of purple, the Eden Gardens will be taken over by blue on Friday. Mumbai Indians and Rajasthan Royals will square up in the second qualifier that will identify the worthy rival to take on Chennai Super Kings in the final on Sunday.

MI’s ambition of making it to the second final was thwarted by a clinical Super Kings in the first qualifier in Delhi on Tuesday. This has narrowed down the options of Rohit Sharma’s side to sail or sink against Royals on Friday.

Extraordinary season

It has been an extraordinary season for the Royals. A low-key side, with bits and pieces players who have been well-led by Rahul Dravid and head coach Paddy Upton, surmounted many challenges, the last being getting the better of Sunrisers Hyderabad in the eliminator on Wednesday.

As the skipper put it in the post-match comments that having come thus far, he was looking for two more good days on the field to have a fairy-tale ending. It is indeed remarkable to see the Royals finding someone in the team to step up and deliver with élan.

This has been the story of the side this season. After winning the inaugural title under Shane Warne, the Royals failed to make an impact in the next four seasons before another retired star in Dravid galvanised the side to perform greater deeds.

The star-studded MI’s capitulations in the knockout stages are getting increasingly noticed. The team’s record of losing during big occasions will surely crease the forehead of the think-tank especially when the availability of Tendulkar is still uncertain.

This match will certainly be a tussle between the batting prowess of both sides. The Rajasthan outfit is heavily dependant on its top-order while MI boasts of a strong middle-order. RR has one of the most dependable top three in Rahul Dravid, Ajinkya Rahane and Shane Watson, while veteran Brad Hodge holds an inexperienced middle-order together.

On the other hand, skipper Rohit Sharma and Kieron Pollard have been the pillars of MI’s middle-order scoring the bulk of the runs this season. Dinesh Karthik, who began with a flourish, has become inconsistent of late. The team, however, will again be looking up to the West Indian Dwayne Smith for an explosive start. MI’s bowling has been quite consistent this season. Mitchell Johnson has regularly provided early breakthroughs while Pragyan Ojha and Harbhajan Singh have managed to pin down batsmen in middle overs.

However, Lasith Malinga has been a big let down during the death overs. Royals’ bowling has been revolving around young Aussie star James Faulkner. He has been ably supported by compatriot Watson, West Indian Kevon Cooper and experienced Siddharth Trivedi.

With the city experiencing cloudy weather and thunder showers for the past few days, the pitch may prove to be a factor in the outcome.

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