The city of Mumbai gears up for an epic clash as the Mumbai Indians host the Gujarat Lions in the first match of the doubleheader on Sunday at the Wankhede Stadium. The sea of blue is all set to welcome their heroes after they registered a tense four-wicket win against the Royal Challengers Bangalore.
Chasing a modest total of 143 runs, they were down and out at 7 for 4 largely due to a hat-trick by Samuel Badree but a crucial partnership between Kieron Pollard and Krunal Pandya for the sixth wicket ensured that the Mumbai Indians managed to get over the line.
The Gujarat Lions, on the other hand, are finally off the mark in the tenth edition of the tournament with a comprehensive seven-wicket win over the Rising Pune Supergiant. Electing to bowl first, the Lions restricted the Supergiant to 171 courtesy a brilliant five-wicket haul including a hat-trick from their debutant Andrew Tye. Bowling has been their weak link in the first two matches of the season and a rejigged bowling unit with the inclusion of Ravindra Jadeja and Andrew Tye will surely help their cause.
The Gujarat Lions, since their inception last season, have not been defeated by the Mumbai Indians in two encounters. While the visitors would look to maintain that record, the hosts would be eager to break this jinx at their fortress in front of their fans.
Take a look at the top four player battles in this exciting contest:
#1 Brendon McCullum vs Lasith Malinga
The most aggressive batsman in the modern era, Brendon McCullum struck form for the Gujarat Lions at the right time in the tournament. Chasing 172 against the Supergiant, the Lions needed something special from their experienced player and he did not disappoint. He struck an explosive 49 in 32 balls to dismantle the bowling of the Pune outfit and give his team much-needed impetus at the top of the order.
The Mumbai Indians were without the services of Lasith Malinga in their previous encounter against the Royal Challengers Bangalore due to illness and he is expected to recover in time for this all-important clash. Malinga has been the spearhead of the Mumbai Indians bowling unit and he will shoulder the responsibility of the bowling attack on Sunday.
McCullum likes to hit through the line and create a bit of width to ensure a free swing of the bat but will be unable to follow the same pattern against Malinga due to his unusual action. The Sri Lankan pacer has a variety of deliveries up his sleeve and with loads of experience, he will be looking to counter McCullum with his wide array of variations.
The most explosive opening batsman in T20 cricket will be up against the most feared bowler in the shortest format and it ensures a mouth-watering clash at the Wankhede Stadium.
#2 Suresh Raina vs Harbhajan Singh
Suresh Raina, the skipper of the Gujarat Lions, has been the most consistent player throughout the nine editions of the tournament. He started the tenth edition with an unbeaten 68 in the opening game against the Kolkata Knight Riders. He has continued his fine performance with the bat since then and is a vital cog in the batting unit for the Lions.
Harbhajan Singh has been the go-to bowler for Rohit Sharma in the powerplay for the 2017 season. The veteran off-spinner, with loads of international experience, is assigned the job to strangle the opposition during the field restrictions and ensure they do not get off to a flying start.
Raina likes the ball coming on to the bat as it enables him to use the pace of the bowler and score runs. The Mumbai Indians would be wary of this fact and would look to unleash Harbhajan Singh, their main weapon against the left-handers, early in his innings. Although Raina is a good player of spin, he has a tendency to poke at deliveries outside the off stump and with the Wankhede surface offering a hint of turn, the off-spinner will be a potent weapon.
#3 Andrew Tye vs Kieron Pollard
Kieron Pollard has finally repaid the faith shown by the management of Mumbai Indians by playing one of his best knocks in the IPL. The West Indian anchored the tricky run chase against the Royal Challengers Bangalore and scored a match winning 70 in 47 balls to bail his team out.
The Lions, meanwhile, owing to their dismal bowling performances in the first two games, handed an IPL debut to Andrew Tye against the Supergiant. The Australian fast bowler had a magnificent outing as he picked up a match-defining five-wicket haul which also included a hat-trick in the final over of the innings.
The two match winners will be up against each other on Sunday and while Pollard will be high on confidence after his scintillating performance with the bat against the RCB, Tye would be looking to exploit the hard surface at the stadium with some well directed short deliveries.
The knuckleball was the most important weapon for Tye in his debut game and the Aussie will be hoping to use all his variations to get the better of Pollard.
#4 Ravindra Jadeja vs Rohit Sharma
The skipper of the Mumbai Indians has been woefully out of form in the tenth edition of the IPL. Coming back from a thigh injury, Rohit has failed to get going in the all the matches so far and will be looking to make amends and strike form in the home game against the Lions.
The Mumbai batting unit has delivered consistently in the tournament without much help from the captain and they would be hoping for their leader to get into the groove leading up to the business end of the competition.
Ravindra Jadeja was the stand-out bowler in the recently concluded India-Australia Test series. He returned from a well-deserved break against the Supergiant and despite being a touch expensive in his four overs, scalped the big wicket of MS Dhoni.
It will be interesting to see the tactics of Rohit Sharma against the left-arm spinner in the upcoming match as he has been dismissed by the ball coming in from the spinners on most occasions in this edition of the IPL. In Jadeja, the Lions have an ideal bowler to trouble Rohit as he does not turn the ball much and has a natural variation with the ball going straight on with the arm.
The Mumbai crowd is all set to be entertained, courtesy a contest between two well-balanced outfits in the Indian Premier League.
Over to the Wankhede!