Mumbai Indians will look to continue the winning momentum to stay ahead in the Playoffs race © AFP

Rising Pune Supergiants (RPS) will locks horns with Mumbai Indians (MI) in Match 29 of Indian Premier League (IPL) 2016 at Pune on Sunday. RPS bowlers outclassed MI batters in the tournament opener and started their maiden IPL campaign on a victorious note. It was the elegance of Ajinkya Rahane that MI could not dismantle to defend a paltry total. Since then, however, MS Dhoni’s brigade jumped at the doorstep of victory only once in the next 7 encounters. MI, on the other hand, have eventually placed themselves on the right track by forming a balanced team composition. While MI are placed at No. 5 with winning half their matches so far, RPS are positioned right after them. FULL CRICKET SCORECARD: Rising Pune Supergiants vs Mumbai Indians, IPL 2016, Match 29 at Pune

More than MI, RPS is in a bothersome spot. It’s their bowling unit that has failed to provide impetus. Not only they could not contain runs but also never managed to take wickets at regular intervals. Ishant came good in the tournament opener by scalping 2 wickets on Wankhede track that equally assisted the bowlers. However, he could not emulate this performance in the next 2 games and thus was benched to given other pacers a chance to make an impact. To make matters worse for captain Dhoni, his ace spinner Ravichandran Ashwin has not had the batsmen in trance with his variety of spin. With only 2 wickets in 7 matches, Ashwin’s numbers do not speak volumes of his abilities. Every time Dhoni turned to Ashwin for providing a breakthrough, he failed to deliver so.

There’s one player who has taken the IPL fans by storm: Murugan Ashwin. He has been at his magical best by getting the better of top-notch batsmen as well as stopping the runs flow in the death overs. In fact, every time RPS were in a crunch situation, it was Murugan who could reignite the hopes of winning the contest. On the other hand, RPS’ batting have kept them on course. While Rahane has been in an ominous touch, we witnessed Steven Smith’s talismanic batsmanship when he plundered a hundred in their previous match. With Dhoni, Thisara Perera and Albie Morkel to follow, the batting line-up looks far more than devastating. Yet again, it’s their bowlers who will have to get their act together to take the team over the line.

MI has been blowing hot and cold so far. Indeed they imploded in few games they deserved to win, but also put up a commanding show while chasing mammoth totals. Their success heavily depended on their captain Rohit Sharma’s performance in the initial phase. Nonetheless, given the way the batsmen played as a cohesive unit, the team looks even more threatening than it appears on paper. Parthiv Patel, Ambati Rayudu, Jos Buttler and Keiron Pollard: all these batsmen have sensibly applied themselves and taken pressure off Rohit’s shoulders.

Talking about MI’s bowling attack, they have an array of bowling options at their disposal. Left-arm pacer Mitchell McClenaghan has continued his stellar performance and is the owner of the Purple Cap. Tim Southee, Harbhajan Singh and Krunal Pandya have bowled well in tandem to keep the team out of the woods.

All in all, it promises to be a beauty of a contest. It’s difficult to pick a team at this moment, as the Pune track has been favouring the batsmen this summer.

For RPS to stay alive in the Playoffs race, their bowlers will have to go all guns blazing and grab MI batsmen by their collar. And, for MI to outplay RPS, they’ll have to continue playing well together as a cohesive unit.


Rising Pune Supergiants: MS Dhoni, Steven Smith, Faf du Plessis, Ajinkya Rahane, Ravichandran Ashwin, Mitchell Marsh, Ashwin Murugan, Ishant Sharma, Kevin Pietersen, Irfan Pathan, Thisara Perera, Rajat Bhatia, Ashok Dinda, Scott Boland, Peter Handscomb, RP Singh, Adam Zampa, Ishwar Pandey, Deepak Chahar, Jaskaran Singh, Baba Aparajith, Ankush Bains, Ankit Sharma

Mumbai Indians: Rohit Sharma (c), Harbhajan Singh, Hardik Pandya, Ambati Rayudu, Jagadeesha Suchith, Jasprit Bumrah, Parthiv Patel (wk), R Vinay Kumar, Shreyas Gopal, Nitish Rana, Siddhesh Lad, Unmukt Chand, Akshay Wakhare, Mitchell McClenaghan, Corey Anderson, Lendl Simmons, Kieron Pollard, Marchant de Lange, Lasith Malinga, Jos Buttler, Nathu Singh, Tim Southee, Krunal Pandya, Kishore Pramod Kamath, Deepak Punia, Jitesh Sharma

Time: 20:00 IST | 14:30 GMT

(Kaustubh S. Mayekar, a reporter at CricketCountry, played cricket at U-16 level. Like his idol Rahul Dravid, he often shadow-practises cricket shots. His Twitter handle is @kaumedy_.)