Pune: Rising Pune Supergiant will aim to take two crucial points in their bid to push for the Indian Premier League (IPL) play-offs as they face an inconsistent Gujarat Lions at the Maharashtra Cricket Association Stadium here on Monday.
Pune have 10 points from nine matches and have gained momentum, having won three of their last four matches. They are coming off a comprehensive 61-run win over Royal Challengers Bangalore on Saturday.
And at home and going by how Pune have peaked lately, they will be expected to have another successful outing against a side which won their first duel of the edition in Rajkot.
Pune will bank on their in-form opening duo of Ajinkya Rahane and Rahul Tripathi to give the team a great start. The middle order comprising the likes of captain Steven Smith, Mahendra Singh Dhoni and Manoj Tiwary have the experience to take the opposition bowlers to the cleaners at ease. With all-rounders Daniel Christian and Rajat Bhatia, the lower order batting can come in handy if needed.
It is not clear whether English star all-rounder Ben Stokes has overcome a shoulder injury.
In his absence, Christian has proved to be an able replacement as far as bowling is concerned, but his batting under pressure remains a question.
In the bowling department, the young Indian pace duo of Jaydev Unadkat and Shardul Thakur has impressed both in the opening and death overs while seasoned leg-spinner Imran Tahir, Christian and rookie tweaker Washington Sundar can provide the breakthroughs as well as stop the flow of runs in the middle overs.
Gujarat, who lost to Mumbai Indians in a match decided by super over, are sixth on the points table with three wins from nine games. Their batsmen and bowlers are not clicking at the same match — a problem they must solve as the race for playoffs is hotting up. They need to start firing on all cylinders in order to get some wins under their belt to join the race for the playoffs.
Gujarat have several destructive batsmen in Dwayne Smith, Brendon McCullum, Suresh Raina, Aaron Finch and Dinesh Karthik and they will hold the key.
Their bowlers, always under the blame, however, have vastly improved. Even though Gujarat lost the game to Mumbai, the way they defended a target of 154, it must give them a lot of confidence going forward.
Australian medium pacer Andrew Tye has been their leading light. With 12 scalps from six games, he is the third highest wicket-taker of this edition so far. Along with him, youngsters Basil Thampi and Nathu Singh are improving, keeping veteran Praveen Kumar on the bench.
A lot will depend on the performances of all-rounders Ravindra Jadeja, James Faulkner and Irfan Pathan.