MI not only have to win but also do it with a margin big enough to edge RR to the playoffs on net run-rate. (BCCI)
Title-holders Mumbai Indians, who are still in with a chance to make it to the playoffs, will take on Rajasthan Royals in the final league game of IPL 7 on Sunday. But if Rajasthan win, they will quietly move into the top-four, putting MI out of the tournament.
Rajasthan are the front-runners to make it to the knockout stage with 14 points in their kitty and need to just defeat Mumbai to sail through. But it would be a difficult task in Mumbai's fortress Wankhede Stadium, which has been breached just once by Chennai Super Kings going back to last season.
Mumbai, on 12 points, seem to be on a roll after back-to-back wins over Kings XI Punjab on May 21 and Delhi Daredevils on Friday, which have kept them alive in the tournament.
But they have a net run-rate of -0.086 compared to Rajasthan's +0.247. So MI not only have to win but do it with a handsome margin to make the grade.
Mumbai produced some good performances after the IPL returned to India following the first phase in the UAE where Rohit Sharma and his men tasted five defeats in a row. The team has shown character and determination to bounce back from the dismal beginning.
When the two teams met previously at Ahmedabad on May 19, Mumbai won by 25 runs, but the hosts are missing the services of their death-bowling king Lasith Malinga who is busy representing Sri Lanka in the series in England.
Adding to this was the freak ankle injury suffered by their late recruit Praveen Kumar on Friday, turning him into a doubtful starter for Sunday's crunch game.
But Michael Hussey's return to form and his successful opening combination with West Indian Lend Simmons, who has scored the only century of the tournament so far, has been a positive for the Rohit Sharma-led outfit. If these two batsmen provide the right platform, then Rohit and the big-hitting Kieron Pollard can blast away in the latter part of the innings.
The addition of young Karnataka legspinner Shreyas Gopal has added teeth to MI bowling with Harbhajan Singh being in his elements. Even left-arm spinner Pragyan Ojha turned the ball sharply against Delhi and troubled their skipper Kevin Pietersen.
Mumbai have zeroed in on Marchant de Lange after trying out Krishmar Santokie and the former bowled well at the death against Delhi, while young Jasprit Bumrah has done well in the initial overs.
The visitors, on the other hand, possess a very good line-up but need to send their power hitters Brad Hodge and James Faulkner much higher up the order than they had done in the recent past.
Captain Shane Watson has to quickly put behind his Friday's first-ball duck against Punjab. In Ajinkya Rahane, Rajasthan have also found someone who knows how to play on this ground very well.
Rajasthan's spin department is a bit of a worry and it was strange to see them use a second legspinner - Rahul Tewatia - instead of giving a chance to left-arm spinner Iqbal Abdulla to complement Pravin Tambe against Punjab.
But playing Mumbai at home, Rajasthan, despite being in a comfortable position compared to the hosts, will have to produce something extraordinary to stop the confident-looking hosts.
(With PTI inputs)