Steven Smith would have realised that the next six days are crucial for his team, Rising Pune Supergiant (RPS), if they have to qualify for the playoffs. After three consecutive wins, they play the next three games at home, starting with the tie against Kolkata Knight Riders at the MCA Stadium here on Wednesday. (IPL 2017 full coverage)
At the halfway stage of the tournament, Rising Pune Supergiant and Kolkata Knight Riders have won four and five matches respectively out of their first seven games.
Sitting on the fourth spot with eight points, RPS will be buoyed on the points table if they win their three home games. Their last home match will be against Kings XI Punjab on May 14.
The stupendous win over Mumbai Indians at the Wankhede Stadium on Monday was just the kind of performance Smith would have been looking for. The openers, Ajinkya Rahane and Rahul Tripathi, started well before the late flourish from Manoj Tiwary.
Stokes coming good
The biggest positive for RPS was Ben Stokes finally finding his rhythm. The reason RPS went all out to buy Stokes at the auction was because of the English all-rounder’s ability to bowl tight overs, pick wickets and boost the batting lineup with his street-smart approach.
Although we are yet to see the ball fly from his blade, except during his half-century knock against Kings XI Punjab, Stokes is finally getting into the groove with the ball. The temperamental all-rounder has played a crucial role with the ball in Rising Pune Supergiant’s last three wins.
Against Royal Challengers Bangalore, he claimed 3/18, conceded only 19 runs against Sunrisers Hyderabad and his miserly penultimate over derailed Mumbai Indians’ chase as RPS defended 160 despite the dew at Wankhede.
“The bowling side has at least been coming out well. Pretty disappointed with the bat. It is an advantage being an all-rounder, you get to contribute in every department. You always have a chance to come back,” Stokes said after Man of the Match performance of 2 for 21 against MI.
Kolkata Knight Rider’s taxing schedule
Kolkata Knight Riders, meanwhile, will have to battle a taxing schedule over the next eight days. Gautam Gambhir & Co will play four games, home and away, during this phase.
“Obviously, it is a tough schedule, but we can’t do much. We cannot sulk. This is the schedule, we are professional players and we have to be up for it. We should be able to cope with it. It really depends upon the individual on how he wants to recover, what he wants to do and how he can be ready for the upcoming games,” said Gambhir on the eve of the match.
KKR’s bowling was put to stern test in their last match against Royal Challengers Bangalore (RCB), but the pacers did an excellent job to not just defend 131-run total but bowl out RCB for IPL’s lowest team score – 49.
Nathan Coulter-Nile, KKR’s hero against RCB, has however been rested by the team management, considering his workload. Gambhir informed that Coulter-Nile isn’t travelling with the team. “We want to manage his workload especially with the kind of schedule we have. We want him to be with us fit for the entire tournament,” said Gambhir.