Two points separate title-holder Gujarat Titans (GT) and five-time champion Mumbai Indians (MI) ahead of match 35 of IPL 2023 at the Narendra Modi Stadium in Ahmedabad on Tuesday.
As the league stage nudges the halfway mark, both teams have managed to secure early wins. However, certain shortcomings have limited them from rendering their best versions.
While GT added its fourth win with a death-bowling masterclass by Mohit Sharma and Mohammad Shami against Lucknow Super Giants on Saturday, MI was handed its third defeat after a shoddy bowling effort at the death versus Punjab Kings the same day.
The Hardik Pandya-led side still has a challenge upon its return to the turf of its 2022 final triumph and season-opening win against Chennai Super Kings.
The fourth-placed Titans have since allowed two successive heists to deprive it of comfortable home wins. Rinku Singh’s epochal five-sixes and a Rajasthan Royals counterattack have led GT to falter with its previously successful methods.
David Miller, however, brushed off the team’s bowling concerns. “The last win (in Lucknow) was a huge one for us as a team and a bowling unit since we haven’t defended the two games that we lost (at home). Regarding the last two losses here, I mean it’s one of those things, the game allows you to win and lose. It was just poor execution in certain areas, but I don’t think we need to be too concerned just yet. Early games in the competition, so it’s something to talk and learn about, which we’re doing constantly as a team,” Miller told reporters on Monday.
With pitches in Ahmedabad assisting the hit-the-deck seamers, GT has often pinned the bowling attack around a lone spinner in Rashid Khan, who has blown hot and cold across six outings. GT’s restraint with the ball becomes crucial as it continues to wear an anchor-heavy top-order in Wriddhiman Saha, Shubman Gill and Hardik, who promoted himself as the accumulator to No. 3 in the previous game.
Contrarily, if MI skipper Rohit Sharma continues his improved striking to see off the PowerPlay, its hefty batting line-up could aim to disrupt Rashid and unsettle GT in the middle-overs, where it has conceded 100-plus runs in both home defeats.
Rashid can still bank on his historical edge over Rohit - three dismissals in five innings. The wily Afghan could also trouble MI wunderkind Tilak Varma, whose overall strike-rate plummets from 156.11 to 111.42 against leg-spinners this season.
MI will also be desperate to fix its death-bowling woes, three days after conceding 96 runs in the last five overs - the second-highest ever in the IPL - to Punjab during an eventual 13-run defeat at the Wankhede Stadium.
Barring a few incisive spells from Jason Behrendorff in the PowerPlay, Mumbai’s pacers have bred on mediocrity across phases. MI has fiddled with seven fast bowlers - five overseas and two uncapped Indians - in six matches. They have only gathered 22 wickets from a combined 71 overs at an alarming economy rate of 10.21 - the second-worst behind Kolkata Knight Riders on metrics.
The team combination will hence play hard on Rohit’s mind as he attempts to trump Hardik, his potential limited-overs India captaincy successor, for the second time in as many meetings.
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