Cellar placed Punjab face stiff test to halt Mumbai juggernaut
Punjab will take heart from the fact that their batting showed much more heft against RCB
Both teams come into this contest on the back of victories, but with contrasting styles. Kings XI Punjab huffed and puffed to get two points against Royal Challengers Bangalore, reaching their target on the last delivery. Mumbai Indians, on the other hand, doled out a comprehensive thrashing to KKR.
This bespeaks the form and mental state of the two teams. Punjab are well endowed with talent, but have appeared staggeringly low on self-belief, losing at least two matches they should have won easily.
Meanwhile, Mumbai, after losing the first match of the season, have over the past four weeks become a juggernaut. Their only other defeat so far was against RCB, in a Super Over climax that could have gone either way.
Heading into this contest, Punjab will take heart from the fact that their batting showed much more heft, and was not entirely dependent on openers K.L. Rahul and Mayank Agarwal, with occasional contributions from Nicolas Pooran.
'Universe Boss' Chris Gayle's inclusion turned out to be very rewarding against RCB. After a sluggish start, the charismatic 41-year-old turned back the clock to smash a half century which quashed any ambition RCB may have had.
Punjab's bowlers did well too, despite Chris Morris handing out a pasting to Mohammed Shami in his last over. Spinners Ravi Bishnoi, Murugan Ashwin were parsimonious, and Rahul also used Maxwell's off spin smartly.
These are encouraging signs, but Punjab will be put to severe test by Mumbai which does not seem to have any weakness at the moment. The entire batting line-up's in form, the bowling attack's been versatile, aggressive and penetrative, Jasprit Bumrah and Rahul Chahar particularly so.
However, Rohit Sharma has indicated that they might try out some new players to be primed up for the playoffs. That could possibly give Punjab a foot in the door on Sunday.
And if they can turn the tables on Mumbai, they might even fancy a dramatic upswing which could carry them all the way into the last four, instead of languishing at the bottom.
We'll know by Sunday evening which way the team's are headed.
(Ayaz Memon is an Indian sports writer and commentator)
Players to watch out for:
K.L. Rahul, Ravi Bishnoi (KXIP)
Quinton de Kock, Jasprit Bumrah (MI)
X Factor: Chris Gayle (KXIP)
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