The rampaging Mumbai Indians will face a resurgent Rising Pune Supergiant in match 28 of the IPL at the Wankhede Stadium on Sachin Tendulkar’s birthday. Mumbai Indians have been on a roll this season, having won 6 matches in a row, but ironically, their only defeat of the season so far has come against the team they are going to face here – Rising Pune Supergiant.
The Supergiant, on the other hand, have been patchy in their performances. They won their first match, then lost the next three before bouncing back to win two in a row. Their bowling attack looks more settled now and back-to-back wins would have added to the team’s confidence too, which was low after three losses.
In this key match, let’s take a look at which the 4 main player to player battles are going to be:
#1 Rohit Sharma vs Imran Tahir
Leg-spinners have been Rohit Sharma’s Achilles heel this IPL for some inexplicable reason. He has been dismissed by Imran Tahir, Rashid Khan and Amit Mishra this season and each time, he has been done in quite early in his innings.
A good player against spin, Rohit is looking all at sea this season, especially against leg spin, and Tahir will once again look to exploit this new found “weakness” in Rohit’s game. The South African has been in very good wicket taking form this season and will once again have to be at his very best if RPS are to challenge the MI.
Things have changed a great deal since these 2 teams last met; MI have surged to the top of the table, whereas RPS are still barely afloat, but this is one key battle that may have a huge impact on the outcome of this match.
#2 Kieron Pollard vs Ben Stokes
The most vital cog in MI’s wagon against the most expensive foreign recruit in IPL’s history, this is a battle between 2 big all-rounders and match winners for their respective sides.
Round 1 of this battle was won by Stokes as RPS trumped MI in their first meeting, and in that match, Stokes had snared Pollard when he was starting to look dangerous, and Pollard then ended up conceding 30 in just 11 balls bowled which helped RPS seal a win in the last over.
This time though, the tables might well have turned. While Pollard’s form has improved since that match, Stokes’ has taken a dip as he has only scored one fifty in 6 matches this season. Whether it’s the pressure of the price tag or just plain poor form, we’d never know, but Pollard seems to be the better-placed player at the moment.
The all-rounder who has the better night in Mumbai might go a long way in deciding who wins this Maharashtra Derby!
#3 Harbhajan Singh vs MS Dhoni
MS Dhoni was having an average season but roared back into form against SRH in RPS’s previous match. Harbhajan Singh didn’t even play for MI in their first match as they opted to go for an all-pace attack.
Clearly, it didn’t work, as the match in which Harbhajan didn’t play was the only one they lost, and ever since he has come back into the side, their bowling attack has got more teeth and variety in it.
He has been used to open the bowling by MI on a few occasions but considering there are no left-handed or foreign openers for RPS, Harbhajan might be used in the middle overs by MI in this match, and that is where he might have a face-off with MSD.
It’ll be fascinating to watch the contest – will it be MS who will deliver the punches and deposit Harbhajan’s deliveries into the stands at Wankhede a few times, or will it be Harbhajan who will get the better of his ex-India skipper and give him an early walk back to pavilion; fans will be eager to find out!
#4 Jasprit Bumrah vs Steve Smith
The best batsman in the world on current form vs the best death overs bowler in the world – a much-awaited battle. Steve Smith had batted until the end the last time these sides met to score an unbeaten match-winning 84, whereas Bumrah was the most economical of the MI bowlers in that game as he had conceded only 29 in his 4 overs in a chase of 185.
Scoring big against Bumrah is proving to be a task next to impossible for all teams this season as he is consistently delivering the goods for MI at the death. Against DD on 22 April, he conceded just 9 runs in his last two overs to put the match beyond DD, but if there is anyone who can counter him with his skill and form, it is the RPS skipper Steve Smith.
Smith can innovate as well as hit big as per the need, which is what he showed in their earlier encounter. The way the Australian skipper tackles Bumrah both in his initial spell and in the final overs might have a huge role in deciding the fate of this match.