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By Divya Suryanarayan
Mumbai: May 5, 2014
Back to winning ways, defending champions Mumbai Indians (MI) would look to exploit the home advantage once again to carry forward their new-found momentum but it won’t easy as they face a formidable Royal Challengers Bangalore (RCB) in the Indian Premier League (IPL) 2014 match at the Wankhede Stadium. MI witnessed a terrible outing in the UAE leg of the tournament as they returned winless. But back in the familiar territory, the Rohit Sharma-led side snapped their dismal five-match losing streak with a five-wicket win over table toppers Kings XI Punjab on Saturday.
The stadium was a mini fortress for MI which could not be breached in eight attempts last year and the title holders certainly enjoyed the home advantage against the Punjab franchise when they secured their first win after five losses, in the process snapping KXIP’s five-match winning streak. It has been Mumbai’s batting, more than their bowling, which had caused their slump in the tournament, but they would be encouraged by the collective batting performance in the last game.
MI is still trying to figure a solid pair at the top to give them a good start. They have tried a few combinations with skipper Rohit, Aditya Tare, Michael Hussey, Ben Dunk and C M Gautam, but none has yielded the desired result. The middle-order that boasts of New Zealand’s Corey Anderson and explosive West Indies all-rounder Kieron Pollard has looked strong in the last few games. Anderson, who holds the record for the fastest century in ODIs, found his touch against KXIP and was adjudged man-of-the-match for his 25-ball 35.
Pollard too has been in good form in the last two games with his blistering knock of 48-ball 78 against Sunrisers Hyderabad and an unbeaten breezy 12-ball 28 against KXIP. MI’s bowling attack comprising Lasith Malinga (9 wickets) and Zaheer Khan (5 wickets) has fared slightly better than their batting unit. On the spin bowling front, MI’s all hopes lies on experienced Harbhajan Singh who scalped two wickets in the last game.
RCB, on the other hand, would be equally eager to ensure a win and continue their momentum after their four-wicket win against Sunrisers Hyderabad last night, which ended their three-match losing streak. RCB would take heart from the fact that they thrashed MI by seven wickets in their last meeting at Dubai. In that match, RCB first dismissed MI for a paltry 115 and then chased down the target with consummate ease in 17.3 overs. It would be tall ask for MI bowlers to restrict RCB’s strong batting line-up which boasts of Chris Gayle, Virat Kohli, Yuvraj Singh and AB de Villiers.
Having missed RCB’s first four matches due to a hamstring injury, Gayle is yet to fire in the tournament and the West Indian is due for an explosive knock. Skipper Kohli has appeared off-colour in the last couple of games and the 25-year-old, who failed to open his account against the same opponents in the first leg at UAE, would be itching to get some runs. Yuvraj has been getting decent knocks, but the flamboyant left-handed batsman would be eyeing a big one tomorrow.
And there is de Villiers who produced one of the most sensational knocks against the Sunrisers last night as he smashed an unbeaten 89 from just 42 balls to single-handedly power RCB to a sensational four-wicket win. RCB bowling attack looked a balanced one with pacer Varun Aaron (10 wickets), Mitchell Starc (9 wickets) and leg-spinner Yuzvendra Chahal (7 wickets) up their ranks. Chahal has been the surprise package for RCB with his amazing abilities as a leg-spinner. Barring last night’s match, he has picked up wickets in every game and has seven from five outings.
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