An upbeat Mumbai Indians are likely to be tested to the hilt by table-toppers and defending champions Gujarat Titans in a vital Indian Premier League match here on Friday.
For the first time in this IPL, five-time winners MI have looked promising as they rose to the third spot in the points table with a six-wicket thumping of Royal Challengers Bangalore here on Tuesday.
The manner in which MI thrashed RCB — chasing 200 inside 17 overs — highlighted once again how successful their batting has been, even though for the second consecutive game they reshuffled the order in a bid to push their net run rate.
Despite their best batter and captain Rohit Sharma enduring a lean patch with five single-digit scores on the trot, MI’s batting has been nearly unstoppable here at the Wankhede Stadium as they successfully chased a target of 200 or above twice in three attempts.
Even against Punjab Kings, MI replied with 201 for 6 while chasing 215.
However, the issue for MI this year is not restricted to Rohit’s form or the absence of Jasprit Bumrah or Jofra Archer, but their bowling which has conceded four consecutive totals above 200, and nearly did so versus RCB again.
In the last three games here, opposition sides have raked up 214/8, 212/7 and 199/6, making the most of a flat wicket and perfect batting conditions — something that GT would also like to target.
MI’s bowling did well against RCB to stop their charge in the middle-overs, but GT are not grappling with the issue of not having in-form batters lower in the order like RCB.
Suryakumar Yadav’s 35-ball 83 and Nehal Wadhera’s second fifty of the season handed MI a commanding win over RCB, but the hosts would know that they cannot afford any slip up against the mighty GT, who are sitting pretty at the top, largely unchallenged.
Suryakumar’s return to form is the biggest positive for MI, for whom the likes of Ishan Kishan, Cameron Green, Tim David and Tilak Varma have done the bulk of scoring. It remains to be seen if Varma is fit for the contest on Friday.
The contest could, however, depend a lot on how MI’s free-flowing batters go against eight overs of spin from Rashid Khan and Noor Ahmad, who has thrived in the company of the senior Afghan.
With eight wins in 11 matches, GT are on the brink of making it to the playoffs and be the first team to do so.
Skipper Hardik Pandya and coach Ashish Nehra have successfully managed a conducive environment for the players who have flourished for the franchise this year as well, emerging as a strong contender for the title for the second year in a row.
The highlight for GT is that they have not lost any of their away games and all three loses have so far come at their home ground in Ahmedabad.
The opening pair of Shubman Gill and Wriddhiman Saha poses a lot of threat, and GT have a long list of batters who can up the ante in their bid to get to big totals.Hardik and David Miller are firing with the bat, and the dangerous Rahul Tewatia’s presence adds more woes for the opposition.
In fact, GT are coming off a huge 56-run win over Lucknow Super Giants, having recorded their highest-ever IPL total of 227 for two.
With the Wankhede being a haven for batters, GT would draw inspiration from their earlier meeting with MI this season.
While recording a comprehensive 55-run win, GT had piled up 207/6 and kept MI to a paltry 152/9.
Mumbai Indians: Rohit Sharma (c), Jofra Archer, Arshad Khan, Jason Behrendorff, Dewald Brevis, Piyush Chawla, Tim David, Raghav Goyal, Cameron Green, Ishan Kishan (wk), Duan Jansen, Chris Jordan, Kumar Kartikeya, Akash Madhwal, Riley Meredith, Shams Mulani, Ramandeep Singh, Sandeep Warrier, Hrithik Shokeen, Tristan Stubbs, Arjun Tendulkar, Tilak Varma, Vishnu Vinod, Nehal Wadhera, Suryakumar Yadav.
Gujarat Titans: Hardik Pandya (c), Shubman Gill, David Miller, Abhinav Manohar, Sai Sudharsan, Wriddhiman Saha, Matthew Wade, Rashid Khan, Rahul Tewatia, Vijay Shankar, Mohammed Shami, Alzarri Joseph, Yash Dayal, Pradeep Sangwan, Darshan Nalkande, Jayant Yadav, R. Sai Kishore, Noor Ahmad, Dasun Shanaka, Odean Smith, KS Bharat, Shivam Mavi, Urvil Patel, Joshua Little and Mohit Sharma.