Preview: On a roll after a six-game winning streak, high-flying Mumbai Indians (MI) will take on a resurgent Rising Pune Supergiant (RPS), their only conquerors in the 10th season of the Indian Premier League (IPL), in a potentially high-voltage clash in Mumbai on Monday.
Pune’s last-ball, six-wicket victory Saturday at home against defending champions Sunrisers Hyderabad was followed just over a 100km away at the Wankhede Stadium here by Mumbai’s stout defence of a small total on a bouncy pitch against the misfiring Delhi Daredevils.
Table toppers Mumbai, thus, are in a perfect state of mind to seek revenge for their first leg loss to their Maharashtra rivals in their opening game in Pune, their only defeat in this season so far.
That the Pune victory over Hyderabad was piloted by none other than the iconic Mahendra Singh Dhoni, who smashed an unbeaten 61 not out in 34 balls to steer the side home in the last ball, will not be lost on the Mumbai think-tank.
The timely return to form by the talismanic former Indian captain, along with Pune captain Steve Smith’s strong show so far in the tournament, makes this duo formidable rivals for the Mumbai bowlers who showed great skills in defending a small total of 142 against Delhi.
It was a rare, forgettable outing with the bat for Mumbai against Delhi and they must pull up their socks to confront the threat posed by the Pune bowling attack tomorrow.
Particularly interesting will be the battle between Pune’s South African leg-spinner Imran Tahir and Mumbai skipper Rohit Sharma who once again fell to a wrist spinner yesterday against Delhi, playing across.
Tahir had his number in the first leg clash in Pune and will be confident of causing the Mumbai captain’s downfall on a track that offered excellent bounce and turn yesterday.
Mumbai’s major plus has been the depth in their batting and variety in bowling, as not many other teams are blessed with such a combination in the league.
Against Delhi, Mumbai batting failed to click although some batsmen like Kieron Pollard and Hardik Pandya got encouraging starts but could not convert them to big scores.
Although unlikely, Mumbai have the option of bringing back one of their consistent batsmen over the years — Ambati Rayudu — who has started training with the team after recovering from his early-season injury.
In bowling, Lasith Malinga has leaked runs in the previous two games, conceding over 50 each, and expectedly made way to former Australian pace spearhead Mitchell Johnson who bowled reasonably well and is expected to be retained against Pune tomorrow.
The pick of the Mumbai bowlers were New Zealander Mitchell McClenaghan who broke the back of the Delhi batting and reduced them to 24 for 6 and then their death-bowling specialist Jasprit Bumrah who came up with his trademark yorkers and dipping full tosses and applied the brakes on Delhi when they sighted an improbable victory.
Pune’s bowling attack appears thinner as compared to that of the overall excellence, covering all bases, of their trans-Sahyadri rivals.
For Pune, in batting, the struggling Ajinkya Rahane needs to sort out his opening blues and come up with a top-class innings at his traditional home ground for the show-stealers like captain Smith and Dhoni to play with abandon.
The toss will be important at this venue with the dew factor coming into play in the latter half of the game, although the amount of dewfall last night was not as high as was in the previous games.
A victory for Mumbai would push them one step closer to the threshold of play-offs while a win for Pune will keep them firmly in the hunt to make the grade.
Mumbai Indians: Rohit Sharma (c), Jasprit Bumrah, Jos Buttler, Shreyas Gopal, Krishnappa Gowtham, Asela Gunaratne, Harbhajan Singh, Mitchell Johnson, Kulwant Khejroliya, Siddhesh Lad, Mitchell McClenaghan, Lasith Malinga, Hardik Pandya, Krunal Pandya, Parthiv Patel (wk), Kieron Pollard, Nicholas Pooran, Deepak Punia, Nitish Rana, Ambati Rayudu, Jitesh Sharma, Karn Sharma, Lendl Simmons, Tim Southee, Jagadeesha Suchith, Saurabh Tiwary, Vinay Kumar.
Rising Pune Supergiant: Steve Smith (c), Ajinkya Rahane, Mahendra Singh Dhoni (wk), Ashok Dinda, Faf du Plessis, Mayank Agarwal, Ankit Sharma, Baba Aparajith, Ankush Bains, Rajat Bhatia, Deepak Chahar, Rahul Chahar, Dan Christian, Lockie Ferguson, Imran Tahir, Jaskaran Singh, Usman Khawaja, Saurabh Kumar, Ben Stokes, Washington Sundar, Milind Tandon, Manoj Tiwary, Adam Zampa, Jaydev Unadkat, Ishwar Pandey, Rahul Tripathi, Shardul Thakur.
With inputs from PTI