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IPL 10, Qualifier 1: Mumbai v Pune

Wisden India logo Wisden India 16-05-2017 Wisden India staff
© Provided by Wisden

It's the Maharashtra Derby once again at the Wankhede Stadium on Tuesday (May 16) as Mumbai Indians lock horns with Rising Pune Supergiant in Qualifier 1 of the 2017 Indian Premier League. The winner of the match will go through to the final, while the loser will have a second chance when they take on the winner of the Eliminator, between Sunrisers Hyderabad and Kolkata Knight Riders.

Pune’s fortunes have been on the upswing this season as they finished second on the points table, a marked improvement from their seventh-place finish on debut in the previous edition. They needed to defeat Kings XI Punjab in a must-win final game for both teams on Sunday. But the much-anticipated clash turned out to be a damp squib with Pune shooting out Punjab for 73 and romping home by nine wickets.

A dominant Mumbai ended the league stage with 20 points after beating Kolkata Knight Riders by nine runs at Eden Gardens on the penultimate day of league action, but when they square off against Steven Smith’s team, they will be mindful that Pune have won both head-to-heads this season. While Ajinkya Rahane and Smith saw them through with a ball to spare in the first clash in Pune, Jaydev Unadkat held his nerve to defend 17 runs in the return encounter at the Wankhede. Pune have also won both games against Mumbai at the latter’s home ground.

Pune will have to cope with the absence of Ben Stokes, who has returned home for international duty. The Englishman has been a vital cog, stacking up 316 runs in 11 innings at a strike-rate of 142.98 and picking up 12 wickets with an economy rate of 7.18. Pune are putting on a brave face, with Rahane saying his side had adequate backup, but there is no denying the fact that they will be severely handicapped in the absence of Stokes as well as Imran Tahir, the South African legspinner who too has linked up with his national side.

Rahul Tripathi has provided Pune with explosive starts, but they will look for more meaningful contributions from Rahane and Smith at the top of the order. Manoj Tiwary, MS Dhoni and Dan Christian can force the pace at the back-end of the innings, but they will welcome a solid base from which to tee off.

Pune’s bowling has stood tall even after Tahir’s return, with Unadkat and Shardul Thakur forming a potent new-ball combination, Washington Sundar efficient with his offspin and Adam Zampa, the leggie, always a threat. They will need to be on top of their game against a powerful Mumbai batting line-up that is ominously running into top form at the most opportune moment.

In their last game against Kolkata, Mumbai made six changes and still won with a degree of comfort. Both Saurabh Tiwary, in his first game of the season, and Ambati Rayudu made half-centuries, but whether they will get a look-in remains to be seen. Lendl Simmons has fitted in seamlessly as the replacement for Jos Buttler, Rohit Sharma seems to be gradually hitting his straps and Kieron Pollard has batted with both responsibility and characteristic flamboyance.

Mumbai’s biggest strength lies in the middle order with Pandya brothers Hardik and Krunal both capable of hitting the long ball, and equipped enough to complement a versatile bowling attack. Lasith Malinga, Jasprit Bumrah, Mitchell McClenaghan and the miserly Harbhajan Singh won’t be easy to get away, and Pune will know that even if they have had the wood over Mumbai this season, that doesn’t guarantee anything.

Head-to-head

Played 4. Mumbai 1; Pune 3

Head-to-head at the Wankhede Stadium

Played 2. Mumbai 0; Pune 2

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