The Gujarat Lions, fresh from a thumping win against the RCB, will take on the Mumbai Indians in match 35 of IPL 2017 at Rajkot on April 29. While one team is struggling to stay afloat in the competition, the other is having a dream run this season.
The Mumbai Indians are placed at No. 2 on the points table after six wins and just two losses from eight matches whereas the Lions are at the fifth spot after three wins from an equal number of matches as MI.
The Lions batsmen struck some form last match, with Suresh Raina, their skipper, grabbing the orange cap and Aaron Finch smashing the RCB bowlers all around the ground, but their real test will be against an in-form Mumbai bowling attack. Mitchell McClenaghan has been taking wickets with great consistency, Harbhajan Singh has been at his miserly best in the powerplay overs and, Jasprit Bumrah has been un-hittable at the death.
How the GL batsmen will tackle this bowling trio can decide the outcome of this contest. Let’s have a look at 5 factors of winning for the teams in this match:
#1 With the bat
For the home team, the top 3 hold the key. Brendon McCullum has been in sublime form this season and his partner, Aaron Finch, was devastating in the last match, despite batting at 4, while skipper Suresh Raina is in the top five run-makers this season.
These three will have the responsibility to shepherd the GL innings whether they are batting first or chasing. Although it was Ishan Kishan who opened against the RCB and Finch batted at 4, he must be back to opening the innings considering MI’s superior bowling line-up.
In the middle order, the man in-form Dinesh Karthik will have to guide the inexperienced Ishan Kishan to help propel his side to a good score. James Faulkner hasn’t really had a chance to make an impact with the bat and show his fine finishing skills so far, but he should be the man to seal it for the Lions should the match get to that stage.
For the visitors, the opening pair has been remarkably consistent and hence, the team hasn’t had to change the opening pair at all in their eight matches. The two wicket-keepers, Parthiv and Buttler, have been instrumental in laying the foundation of most MI wins this season and they will try to continue in the same vein against the GL.
Captain Rohit Sharma made his first fifty of the season in the last game and showed clear signs of returning to form, which is great news for MI. Nitish Rana and Kieron Pollard would look to continue their rich form against a low-on-confidence GL bowling attack.
#2 With the ball
Mumbai Indians are clearly the superior side here as there is hardly a weak link in their bowling unit. It is an all-international bowling attack they played in the last match, with pacers of the quality of McClenaghan, Johnson and Bumrah to go with youngster Hardik Pandya, and spinners like Harbhajan and Karn Sharma.
The GL batsmen will have their work cut out if they are to post a decent total batting first against this attack or to chase a total down.
Malinga’s return in place of one of the two Mitchells will only make this team stronger despite his recent lack of form, as he is a quality death overs bowlers and his presence will make GL’s task all the more tougher.
Extra Cover: IPL 2017, GL vs MI: Face Off
GL, on the other hand, have still not found the perfect bowling combination for the season. They have tried many options but no one has been consistent for them, with the exception of young pacer Basil Thampi. Veterans Praveen Kumar and Dhawal Kulkarni find themselves out of the side now as Raina’s team is planning to rely more on youngsters like Thampi and Nathu to lead their attack.
International pacers Andrew Tye and James Faulkner add some muscle to this attack, especially Tye, who has already taken a hat-trick this season and is in the top five wicket takers. Jadeja has been off-colour so far but looked to be returning back to his Test match bowling form in the last match against the RCB. How he restricts the MI hitters in the middle overs might hold the key to GL’s fortunes.
For starters, the GL must make Aaron Finch open with McCullum as the kind of form he showed the last match, the more deliveries he faces for his side, especially inside the fielding restrictions, the better it’ll be for them. These two followed by Raina and Karthik is GL’s best top 4.
MI, on the other hand, don’t need to tinker too much with a batting line-up that has been fairly successful so far. The opening pair is well settled, Rana has been brilliant at No. 3, and the only worry so far for them in the season is Rohit Sharma’s form. Pollard and Hardik Pandya’s big hitting has been a blessing for MI, and hence, their batting looks like a well-oiled machine that just needs to keep running the way it is.
In the bowling department, the hosts must try and include Irfan Pathan in the XI. If he can find some early swing since it is a night game, and dislodge the openers cheaply, it might just be the opening the GLs need. Keeping two overs each from Tye and Faulkner for the last 4, whether they are bowling first or second, might also be important considering how inexperienced the other two pacers are.
MI might opt to go with the same bowling attack as the last match unless they feel the need to give Malinga a run before the playoffs, to try and see if he can find his match-winning rhythm back.
#4 The Pandya brothers
Mumbai Indians have been riding on the shoulders of the Pandya brothers for most of this season so far. There has hardly been a match where they have won without either of them making a substantial contribution.
The fact that both are all-rounders helps the team in a big way as they can potentially get eight overs out of them, and both can be used with great flexibility anywhere in the batting order depending upon the state of the match.
Krunal missed the last match due to a niggle, but MI might pick him again if he is fit as he has been a star of their campaign this season. Hardik too has done the finisher’s job to near perfection at No. 7. With the ball, they have formed a perfect combo, with the elder brother taking a quite a few catches off his younger brother’s bowling!
How they fare in their respective roles against the GL will once again be crucial to MI’s success at Rajkot.
#5 Mumbai’s death overs mastery
MI can boast of the best death overs bowlers in the IPL. Jasprit Bumrah, currently, is easily the best in the world in the limited-overs format in the final overs of an innings. Malinga, in this aspect, is an undisputed legend, and McCleneghan has this happy knack of picking up crucial wickets towards the end of an innings to derail any opposition.
Mumbai Indians have successfully managed to choke their opponents in the last 4-5 overs of the innings consistently, courtesy their immensely skilful death overs bowlers. To counter this, the GL batsmen will have to take extra risks from overs 7 to 15 as scoring 50 off the last 5 might not be as straight-forward as it generally is in T20s against most teams.
MI’s death overs bowling, especially if GL are chasing a score set by them, will be crucial in the final outcome of this match.