The two heavyweights of the tournament started the tenth edition in contrasting fashion as the Mumbai Indians failed to defend 184 against the Rising Pune Supergiant. The Kolkata Knight Riders, on the other hand, thrashed the Gujarat Lions in their own den by chasing 184 runs in just 15 overs, courtesy a record-breaking opening partnership between Gautam Gambhir and Chris Lynn.
In the 18 matches played through the nine editions, Mumbai Indians have registered 13 wins while the Knight Riders have managed only 5. The boys from Mumbai will be itching to bounce back from their defeat in the opening match and can take some solace from the statistics. The Knight Riders, on the other hand, will be looking to continue the good work from their opening game and turn the stats in their favour on Sunday.
Take a look at the four key head-to-head player battles in this all important game:
#1 Chris Lynn vs Lasith Malinga
Chris Lynn, the Australian batting sensation was the Man of the Match in the opening game for the Knight Riders. The only way Lynn is expected to play in this tournament is going hammer and tongs against the opposition bowlers. He made his intentions very clear in the opening match as he smashed the Gujarat bowlers all around the park and announced himself on the big stage.
The most experienced bowler in the Mumbai Indians setup, Lasith Malinga, is all set to be back for the all important encounter. Having missed the first match due to national duties, he will be eager to shoulder the bowling responsibilities for his franchise. He picked up a hat-trick in the last match against Bangladesh and will be riding high on confidence.
A high back lift and baseball like swing allows Lynn to hit mighty strokes against the fast bowlers but it will be difficult for him to execute the same against Malinga due to his slingy action. A variety of tricks up his sleeve, he will be the key for Mumbai Indians to counter the Lynn threat. Lynn, on the other hand, with his experience of Big Bash and T-20 cricket from around the world, will surely find a way to counter the toe-crushing yorkers and slower deliveries.
It will be an interesting battle between the most experienced bowler in T20 cricket and the most exciting batsman in the shortest format.
#2 Gautam Gambhir vs Jasprit Bumrah
The left-handed opening batsman has been one of the mainstays in the batting unit for the Kolkata Knight Riders. Gambhir started the tournament in a commanding fashion by scoring an unbeaten 76 in their opening match against the Gujarat Lions. While the wicket at Rajkot was a batting paradise with true bounce, it will not be the same when he takes guard at the Wankhede Stadium.
The Mumbai surface is known to offer extra bounce and carry to the medium pacers, and with Jasprit Bumrah and his unusual action, it can create a lot of difficulties for the skipper of KKR.
Bumrah was the most economical bowler for the Mumbai Indians in their opening match against Pune and he will be looking to hit the deck and exploit the conditions on offer at the 22 yards. Gambhir, with his open stance, finds it difficult to deal with the short rising ball and Bumrah will look to exploit that weakness in the much-awaited clash.
#3 Piyush Chawla vs Jos Buttler
Mumbai sprung a surprise in their opening game when they sent Jos Buttler to open the batting along with Parthiv Patel ahead to Rohit Sharma. The move almost proved to be a masterstroke as he smashed the bowlers in the initial six overs of field restrictions by scoring 38 runs in just 19 balls. He was unlucky to be given out lbw to Tahir as the ball had hit the inside part of the bat.
In the last match against the Gujarat Lions, Piyush Chawla bowled in the powerplay for the Knight Riders and even scalped the wicket of Jason Roy in his second over. This gives the skipper and the team management of the Knight Riders enough flexibility to use Sunil Narine and Kuldeep Yadav in the middle overs to put the brakes on scoring rate.
The England batsman got out to the leg spinner in the last game and it will be interesting to see his tactics against Chawla. He likes the ball coming onto the bat in the power play and this change would surely make him think about his game plan. Chawla bowls a lot flatter in the initial overs and his variations will be the key to counter Buttler and his aggressive style of play.
#4 Sunil Narine vs Rohit Sharma
The captain of the Mumbai Indians is making a comeback from a thigh injury and will be looking to get into the groove against the Knight Riders. Although Rohit Sharma did not have a great start to the 2017 edition of the tournament as he was dismissed for 3, he is a world class player and a proven match winner not only for the Mumbai Indians but also for the Indian team.
Sunil Narine, the mystery spinner has been a trump card for Gautam Gambhir and the Kolkata team for a long time. He has not been able to weave the magic around with his variations since a very long time due to his changed action, but he’s still a very a very dangerous bowler in the shortest format of the game.
The Mumbai Indians would want Rohit Sharma to play the anchor role and it will be a great contest to witness as to how he goes about tackling the West Indian in the middle overs.