Mumbai: Hosts Mumbai Indians (MI) will fancy beating a floundering Kings XI Punjab (KXIP) when both sides face-off in a must-win match in the Indian Premier League here on Wednesday.
After a string of losses initially, Mumbai's hopes of making it to the last four were revived after three straight wins, but their eight-wicket defeat against Rajasthan Royals on Sunday has again put them on the back foot.
While Mumbai are in sixth position with five wins from 12 games, a stuttering KXIP have slumped to the fifth spot with 12 points having suffered their fourth defeat in five games on Monday.
Mumbai, with an excellent net run-rate, need to put behind the humiliation by Royals and come out with all guns blazing against an equally jittery KXIP, who have lost their way in the second half of the tournament after starting strongly.
Mumbai's middle order was yet again exposed in the last game when their batsmen, including skipper Rohit Sharma, failed miserably.
Only Suryakumar Yadav has been among the runs on a consistent basis and MI would be pleased with the return to form of his West Indian opening partner Evin Lewis. These two will be banked upon to provide an excellent start.
But they need the others down the order, especially skipper Rohit to contribute big. Save his match-winning knock against Royal Challengers Bangalore here, Rohit has failed to perform to his potential and MI need him in cracking form, backed up by the Pandya brothers Hardik and Krunal.
MI's bowling too has been a worry. The likes of Jasprit Bumrah, Hardik and left-arm pacer Mitchell McClenaghan will have to bowl cleverly to stop the rampaging K L Rahul and Chris Gayle from scoring big runs.
All three may come up with a short-ball attack on the rival openers as Umesh Yadav showed with great success Monday night for RCB. The role of leggie Mayank Markande (14 wickets) will also be crucial along with that of Krunal Pandya,
It has been a story similar to Mumbai's for KXIP whose openers - Rahul and Gayle - were giving them good starts until last night when both succumbed to Yadav's short balls.
Rahul, who has been in the form of his life, was dismissed for 21, while Gayle, who has hit a blistering century this season, also failed and the misfiring middle order could not rescue the team which was shot out for 88, its lowest total of the season.
The hand injury to rookie Afghanistan leg-spinner Mujeeb Ur Rahman is a big blow to Punjab and in his likely absence Ashwin and Axar Patel need to take up the responsibility to take wickets in the middle overs.
“We've to try and make sure we lift ourselves. We'll have to keep a watch on the net run rate but stay positive. We've got a reasonable bowling attack and a lot of experienced international players didn't show up with the bat,” remarked skipper Ashwin after the drubbing by RCB.
The teams (from): Mumbai Indians: Rohit Sharma (capt), Suryakumar Yadav, Evin Lewis, Ishan Kishan, Hardik Pandya, Krunal Pandya, Kieron Pollard, Mayank Markande, Mitchell McLenaghan, Mustafizur Rahaman, Jasprit Bumrah, Akila Dananjaya, Ben Cutting, J-P Duminy, Rahul Chahar, Sharad Lumba, Adam Milne, Siddhesh Lad, M D Nidheesh, Mohsin Khan, Anukul Roy, Pradeep Sangwan, Tajinder Singh, Aditya Tare, Saurabh Tiwary.
Kings XI Punjab: R Ashwin (capt), Chris Gayle, Aaron Finch, K L Rahul, Karun Nair, Mohit Sharma, Mujeeb Ur Rahman, Barinder Sran, David Miller, Andrew Tye, Ankit Rajpoot, Axar Patel, Akshdeep Nath, Mayank Agarwal, Manoj Tiwary, Yuvraj Singh, Marcus Stoinis, Mayank Dagar.
Match starts at 8 pm