Jaipur, Oct 3: There is little to separate as Rajasthan Royals, who have turned the Sawai Mansingh Stadium into a fortress with a 12-match winning streak, lock horns with the ever-formidable Chennai Super Kings in the first semifinal of the Champions League Twenty20 here on Friday.
Rajasthan Royals breezed into the last-four stage of the tournament with an unbeaten four-match streak while the Super Kings, the first team to have advanced to the semifinals, stumbled in their final group game against Trinidad & Tobago last night.
Former champions CSK are aware that their opponents have not lost a single game in this venue in the last Indian Premier League, and add the home side's performance in the ongoing tournament, the record surely wears an invincible look.
Considering that they will be playing in front of the home crowd, the scenario is ideal for RR skipper Rahul Dravid, though he also knows that the tournament's toughest challenge awaits them.
The hosts know the conditions like the back of their hands and the strategies that they planned had been executed well. But then again, the CSK, led by the redoubtable Indian captain MS Dhoni, could be an altogether different proposition.
Rajasthan would do well to not read too much into CSK's defeat last night. On a day when nothing went right after three successive wins, the famed CSK outfit crashed to an eight-wicket defeat after being bowled out for 118. While the CSK bowlers had no answer to T & T's Lendl Simmons (63), they would hope to dish out a much better display with both bat and ball on Friday.
The visitors have tremendous depth in their batting and bowling. In Dhoni, they have a cool and shrewd skipper who is also in blazing from with the willow.
Though he may not have done much against T&T, Dhonis 19-ball 63-run knock against Hyderabad Sunrisers is testimony to the kind of form he is in.
Suresh Raina and Michael Hussey are as solid as ever and Murali Vijay has also shown good form. Ravindra Jadeja has not been up to the mark but he can be never be counted out.
The likes of Subramaniam Badrinath, Dwayne Bravo and Ravichandran Ashwin give their batting the much-needed depth down the order.
Their bowling too has variety and options in Jason Holder, J Bravo. Albie Morkel, Ashwin and Jadeja.
On the other hand the hosts, who have not put a foot wrong do far in the tournament, can take heart from the fact that the visitors have suffered a tame defeat to Trinidad and Tobago.
The conditions here suit them and they have been able to get the better of many fancied teams, be it in the IPL or in the ongoing tournament.
They do not have too many big stars but certainly have players who know their role. In Dravid, Shane Watson and Brad Hodge they have the experience and class which is supported by energetic and talented youngsters like Ajinkya Rahane, Sanju Samson, Kevon Cooper and Ashok Menaria.
All these young players are eager to keep proving their mettle in the top leagues.
The hosts also have the bowling which has teeth and variety. Watson, Shaun Tait are seasoned campaigners while rookie Vikramjeet Malik, Rahul Shukla and Pravin Tambe have been used as surprise packages.
It would not be wrong to assume that the Pink City is set for a high-voltage clash between two formidable sides.
Rajasthan Royals: Rahul Dravid (captain), Stuart Binny, Kevon Cooper, James Faulkner, Brad Hodge, Vikramjeet Malik, Ashok Menaria, Ajinkya Rahane, Sanju Samson, Rahul Shukla, Shaun Tait, Pravin Tambe, Siddharth Trivedi, Shane Watson and Dishant Yagnik.
Chennai Super Kings: MS Dhoni (captain and wicketkeeper), R Ashwin, S Badrinath, Dwayne Bravo, Faf du Plessis, Jason Holder, Michael Hussey, Imtiaz Ahmed, Ravindra Jadeja, Albie Morkel, Chris Morris, Suresh Raina, Wriddhiman Saha, Mohit Sharma, Murali Vijay.
Match starts 8PM IST