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With an eye on the finals berth and ambition to win the coveted Indian Premier League (IPL) trophy for the third time, old nemesis Mumbai Indians and Kolkata Knight Riders on Friday will battle it out for once last time in second Qualifier of this season to set date with Rising Pune Supergiant (RPS) for the title decider on May 21.

Mumbai Indians come into the game following their 20 runs defeat to Pune Supergiant on Tuesday in the first Qualifier. Captain Rohit Sharma will want to make the most of the opportunity to get back to winning days and the title.

Kolkata Knight Riders finally weathered the rough patch and Bengaluru rain on Wednesday to beat the defending champions Sunrisers Hyderabad by 7 wickets (DLS method).

Gautam Gambhir will want to keep the winning form and title hope alive as he marches his troops on a wicket that seems pretty familiar to him now.

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Enjoying their best season so far, surprisingly, Mumbai Indians have ended on the losing side of the game every time (3 occasions) they faced RPS this IPL.

Mumbai on Tuesday lost the first Qualifier in a rush to wrap up the game after they restricted Pune Supergiant to 162 runs. They gave away wickets early on and then never got back in the game against the disciplined RPS bowlers.

Mumbai Indians Coach Mahela Jayawardene and Captain Rohit Sharma would have given their piece of mind and experience to the unit after the debacle.

Ahead of the game tonight, Mumbai Indians despite an advantage of 15-5 over Knight Riders will take no half measures and will want to relegate those facts to just boost the morale of the team — absolutely nothing more.

This is a fresh day and Mumbai Indians will have to work as per a plan against the destructive Knights who when on the song, have been notoriously running over their opponents in this IPL season.

The strength of Mumbai Indians lies in its solid batting line up.

Openers Parthiv Patel (377 runs in 14 matches) and Lendl Simmons (131 runs in 5 matches) have so far instrumental in proving team a solid start within the Power Play. Against the gritty pair Sunil Narine and Chris Lynn of KKR, Parthiv and Simmons will be required to stay in the wicket for a longer haul and keep attacking the opposition with calculated risks.

 

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The middle order of Mumbai will be depending on Rohit Sharma, Kieron Pollard and Ambati Rayudu. All three have chipped in with essential scores and will be required to mirror their performance once again tonight.

With 283 runs in 15 matches, this has by far a quiet and unsuccessful season (batting wise) for Captain Rohit Sharma.

The skipper still seems to be struggling against the spinners, however; a couple of last matches — with a couple of half-centuries — had a glimpse of vintage Rohit Sharma the fans have been missing for a while.

With all at stake tonight against the old rivals KKR, the platform is set for the stylish right-handed batsman to come back in the groove.

The bowling attack will rest with the experience of Lasith Malinga, JaspritBumrah and Mitchell McClenaghan.

The double bounce in M Chinnaswamy Stadium is still in play and helps the spinners. This might push Mumbai Indians to use Harbhajan Singh in tonight’s game.

Mumbai is a very fine balance of experience and talent; together the unit will settle at nothing except the coveted IPL 2017 trophy.

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The last time Kolkata Knight Riders faced Mumbai Indians, the game cost them a chance to the make it to the final two teams in the points table before the playoffs.

The scars will be sour not only because KKR has been defeated at both the encounters this season but the fact Mumbai Indians won despite playing without six of their frontline players.

KKR Coach Jacques Kallis and Captain Gautam Gambhir must be relieved after they eliminated Sunrisers Hyderabad in their last fixture that turned out to be a rain-marred affair.

The game was relegated by (DLW method) asking KKR to score 48 runs from 6 overs after they restricted SRH to 120 in their 20 overs. KKR achieved the target after losing 3 wickets and 4 balls still remaining in the match.

Gambhir led KKR have virtually run over every opponent they have faced this season, but it’s the early loss of wickets that panics the team into a self-destructive mode and the middle order collapse.

With Manish Pandey — 396 runs in 14 matches — out of tonight’s fixture due to an injury, there will be extra pressure on the likes of Robin Uthappa and Yusuf Pathan to carry the baton of the middle order tonight.

Both Pathan and Uthappa have shown the tendency to give away wickets in pressure situations owning to accelerate the run rate. Coach Kallis must talk to the duo to back their power and instincts and play with more temperament than brawl.

 

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A much will still depend on the kind of start openers Sunil Narine and Chris Lynn give to the team.

Though Gambhir will want Narine to take charge of runs early on while Lynn can rotate strike and put away the odd bad deliveries. This might also fire back if Lynn plays against his natural game of going after the bowlers with the word ‘play’.

With such a crucial game at hand, KKR will hope their opening pair to flourish just like so many times they have done this IPL season.

Batting at number 3, skipper Gautam Gambhir will once again have to carry the team on his shoulders.

It will be every important for him to stay put in the crease and provide a strong foundation during the middle overs for Pathan and Pandya bothers to cash during the death overs.

Having played on the Bengaluru track earlier, Gambhir will want to go with three spinners (Sunil Narine, Piyush Chawla and Kuldeep Yadav) and the pace attack Nathan Coulter-Nile, Umesh Yadav and Trent Boult.

The good news for Knight Riders is that their speedsters will be able to use the bounce and movement of the pitch early on before the spinners come into play.

Both Sunil Narine and Kuldeep Yadav with 22 wickets between themselves are handy to get away with the middle overs without dropping too many runs.

In total, Kolkata Knight Riders look a very resolved side and is a top contender for the coveted IPL 2017 trophy. All the team needs to practice at the hour is — restrained aggression.

***

Bengaluru has witnessed more rain than cricket in last one week. The two paced track at M Chinnaswamy Stadium will help the spinners and pacers with cross seam delivery.

Both the captains will want to field first and use the advantage of the pitch to restrict the opposition for a low total.

Having said that, it will not be very easy for the team batting second either to have a free go at the bowlers.

With all at stake battle, the least both Kolkata Knight Riders and Mumbai Indians will worry about the pitch.

They both want to win the IPL 2017 title. Period

First Published | 19 May 2017 10:32 AM
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