It’ll be advantage Gujarat Lions when they take on defending champions Mumbai Indians in their last group stage match at the Green Park Stadium on Saturday.
The Suresh Raina-led Lions will finish in the top two with 18 points if they beat the Rohit Sharma-led outfit. If pool toppers Sunrisers Hyderabad outplay Kolkata Knight Riders at Eden Gardens on Sunday, even a loss won’t make a difference as the Lions will be assured of a place in the top four.
The Lions also have a psychological advantage over Mumbai as they scored a resounding win in their last meeting. Besides, they would be playing on home turf, where Raina and Co dictated terms to Kolkata Knight Riders in all departments on Thursday night. Mumbai making the playoffs would depend on their beating the Lions. They have the advantage of having a better net run rate if there is a five-way tie on 16 points.
“We’d love to continue our winning streak here again, and will do our best for this,” Lions’ star performer against KKR Dwayne Smith told HT. “I am glad to contribute to the team’s success. We have worked hard as a unit and now have the mission to repeat the same against Mumbai Indians.”
A former Mumbai Indians player, Smith accepted that the win against KKR gave the team confidence. “The win has boosted our confidence and I am looking forward to our match against Mumbai Indians,” he said, adding, “They are a good side and we can’t take them lightly.
Raina’s knowledge of the conditions would also be a plus. Against Knight Riders, his bowlers bowled in the right areas, giving little chance to the batsmen to free their arms. Good field placements too pegged back KKR, who barely managed to cross the 100-run mark.
Opting to field was Raina’s first ploy on a wicket where the ball was coming on quickly after hitting the deck, and this was exploited by Smith, who had four wickets. Though Saturday’s match would be on a different surface, which looks brown compared to the green top for Thursday’s match, the toss would again be crucial.
Mumbai’s top batsmen like Rohit, Ambati Rayudu, Kieron Pollard and Krunal Pandya have to put their best foot forward before their seam bowlers like Mitchell McClenaghan and Jasprit Bumrah do their job to ensure a win and a ticket to the play-offs.