Steadily gaining momentum after struggling initially, Rising Pune Supergiant would look to maintain the rhythm when they clash with a low-on-confidence Gujarat Lions in an Indian Premier League match here tomorrow. After languishing in the bottom-half of the table, Supergiant notched up four wins in their last five matches to grab the fourth place. Currently, on 10 points from nine games with five wins in their kitty, a win today would ensure that the RPS stay in top-four and strengthen their chances of making the playoffs in the 10th edition of the IPL.
In contrast, the Lions are at fifth with eight points from nine games and need to win rest of their matches to keep the chances of booking a play-off berth alive. The Supergiant would draw confidence from their comprehensive 61-run win over Royal Challengers Bangalore here Saturday night.
Pune bowlers rose to the occasion, defending a sub-par total of 157 with a controlled bowling performance as they rode on brilliant performances by Imran Tahir (3/18) and man-of-the-match Lockie Ferguson (2/7). Even Jaydev Unadkat, Daniel Christian, and Washington Sundar chipped in with a wicket apiece.
However, the batsmen struggled to up the ante although the pitch was reasonably good and put on a total of just over 155 runs despite losing only three wickets. Skipper Steve Smith would be keen to address the issue of inconsistent batting when they face the Lions.
But with the likes of Smith, Mahendra Singh Dhoni, Manoj Tiwary and local boy Rahul Tripathi being among the runs so far, RPS would hope for them to fire in unison tomorrow. On the other hand, the Lions are coming into the match following a heartbreaking loss to Mumbai Indians in a thrilling Super Over finish at Rajkot last night.
It would be tough to forget the disappointment of a narrow defeat and bounce back. However, the Lions must be happy to have taken the match to the Super Over while defending a modest total of 154.
The Gujarat fielders were outstanding as they affected four run-outs, including three in the last seven balls, to bundle out Mumbai Indians for 153 off the final ball. Even though they failed to chase down 12 runs in the One-Over Eliminator, courtesy Jasprit Bumrah’s brilliant bowling, the Pune players showed a lot of character.
Besides James Faulkner (2/34) and new-found talent Basil Thampi (3/29), who can bowl yorkers at will, chipping in with important contributions, new recruit Irfan Pathan also kept his nerves while bowling the last over. Gujarat would want their bowlers to continue in the same vein but would want the batsmen to take more responsibility.
Rising Pune Supergiant: Steve Smith (c), Ajinkya Rahane, Mahendra Singh Dhoni, Ashok Dinda, Mayank Agarwal, Faf du Plessis, Ankit Sharma, Baba Aparajith, Ankush Bains, Rajat Bhatia, Deepak Chahar, Rahul Chahar, Dan Christian, Lockie Ferguson, Imran Tahir, Jaskaran Singh, Usman Khawaja, Saurabh Kumar, Ben Stokes, Washington Sundar, Milind Tandon, Manoj Tiwary, Adam Zampa, Jaydev Unadkat, Ishwar Pandey, Rahul Tripathi, Shardul Thakur.
Gujarat Lions: Suresh Raina (capt), Akshadeep Nath, Basil Thampi, Shubham Agarwal, Dwayne Smith, Chirag Suri, James Faulkner, Aaron Finch, Manpreet Gonly, Ishan Kishan, Ravindra Jadeja, Shadab Jakati, Dinesh Karthik, Dhaval Kulkarni, Praveen Kumar, Brandon McCullum, Pradeep Sangwan, Jason Roy, Jaydev Shah, Shelly Shaurya, Nathusingh, Tejas Baroka and Andrew Tye.