Bottom-placed: Punjab take on confident Mumbai Indians
In any other tournament, the bottom-placed team taking on the second-placed team on the Points table will mean a no-contest barring any surprises. However, in the IPL it is still anybody’s game. Coming into the game on the back of an unnecessarily hard-fought victory against RCB, Kings XI will be hoping to stop the Mumbai Indians juggernaut.
The return of Chris Gayle to the playing eleven provided much-needed firepower to a floundering Punjab middle-order. Punjab finally appear to have converted their fearsome opening partnership into a robust top three. The openers have been in stellar form for Punjab, so much so that not even Chris Gayle coming in could convince the management to split the Rahul-Mayank pair apart. Nicholas Pooran has been impressive with consistent performances and the Punjab lineup now looks settled.
M Ashwin was the surprise package against RCB, him, and Ravi Bishnoi making run-scoring impossible during the middle overs on a helpful surface. Mohammed Shami appeared to be back to his best, picking up both Virat Kohli and AB de Villiers’ wickets in a single over to derail RCB’s final push. In Arshdeep Singh, Punjab have discovered a gem who can bowl the pressure overs.
For Mumbai, everything seems to be clicking. Their openers are firing on all cylinders. The middle-order has Indian players who are contributing to the team’s cause. Their finishers in the batting lineup are as good as one could wish for in Kieron Pollard and the Pandya brothers. The return of Nathan Coulter-Nile from injury adds further depth to their batting might. Mumbai have historically had a strong bowling lineup, and that has continued into the 2020 season as well. The only area of concern would have been their spinners’ form, but with Rahul Chahar picking up two crucial wickets in the middle overs and giving away only 18 runs, their spin bowling department looks set too.
The last time the two teams met, the Mumbai Indians steamrolled Punjab by 48 runs. Kieron Pollard and Hardik Pandya blazed away at the death, and once KL Rahul and Mayank Agarwal registered a rare failure, the Mumbai Indians brushed away the rest of the Punjab batting bar a cameo from Nicholas Pooran. That victory was the beginning of the still to-be-broken five-match winning run for the Mumbai Indians. Despite all the signals pointing towards another Mumbai Indians win, the IPL is such a tournament that even a bottom-placed Kings XI has match-winners who could upset the applecart. Two crucial points will be up for grabs, and with Punjab fast approaching the no-return zone, a victory will go a long way in keeping their playoff hopes alive.