MOHALI: A month after they took this edition of the tournament by storm, Kings XI Punjab return home to Mohali, a ground notorious for its sparsely filled stands be it international cricket or the IPL, for the first of three home games. In the recent past, only an occasion as big as the 2011 World Cup semi-final between India and Pakistan saw Mohali choc-a-block with people. Now, they won’t have an excuse as Kings XI have been the team to watch in the tournament, their style of batting possibly the most exhilarating ever in seven editions of the IPL.
Facing them will be Mumbai Indians, a team on the brink. The defending champions have had a disastrous campaign and need to win all their remaining matches to have any chance of making it to the playoffs. The Mohali test promises to be their toughest as they will be playing their last two matches against Rajasthan Royals and Delhi Daredevils with the vociferous support of the Wankhede crowd behind them. That they are one of only two teams to beat Kings XI this season should boost their confidence.
Previous encounter: Harbhajan Singh reined in the Glenn Maxwell storm just when it was threatening to explode in the teams’ previous meeting. George Bailey and David Miller failed to fire and Kings XI could only set a target of 169, which, considering the conditions in Mumbai, was slightly below par. Kieron Pollard, with a 12-ball 28, helped Mumbai Indians complete the chase in the last over.
Watch out for: Kings XI retaining Manan Vohra, a 20-year-old batsman, ahead of the auctions seemed to be against conventional wisdom. They then kept him hidden for nine matches, raising more questions about that decision. But if you saw him hit that back-foot punch for six over cover off a quick Mohammed Shami delivery against Daredevils, you wondered why on earth was he out for so long. Vohra’s stats for his two matches this season read 89 runs off 39 balls, which is a strike rate of 228.20, a few notches above that of Maxwell.
Michael Hussey’s return to the top of the order has lent solidity to a fragile Mumbai Indians batting. His half-century in his comeback match in Ahmedabad gave Mumbai Indians their best start this year. Maybe the team could have been patient with his form earlier. With three must-win games ahead of them, they now need Hussey to come good three more times.
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