Mumbai Indians aims to maintain momentum against Kings XI Punjab

If momentum carries the day, Mumbai Indians, the reigning champion, should pull off another victory.

Given that most sides have equal batting strength with the bowlers making the difference, Mumbai Indians has more than a trump card in Mitchell McClenaghan, in possession of the purple cap until Thursday evening.   -  K. Murali Kumar

In its last outing, Kings XI Punjab came so agonisingly close to winning, but crashed to a heartbreaking defeat at home in Mohali. By the slenderest margin of a solitary run, it succumbed to Royal Challengers Bangalore. Two similar finishes in the IPL had happier endings for Punjab.

The northern side, which has plumbed the depths of the table, face a comfortably placed Mumbai Indians — fresh from victory over the very team the Kings lost to — at the Dr. Y.S. Rajasekhara Reddy International stadium on Friday.

For Mumbai, a middle order revival more than made amends if the top had faltered against Bangalore. Rising to the challenge of the chase with zeal, it sealed a six-wicket victory with eight balls to spare. Given that most sides have equal batting strength with the bowlers making the difference, the western squad has more than a trump card in Mitchell McClenaghan, in possession of the purple cap until Thursday evening. So will it draw strength from Krunal Pandya’s stunning economy rate.

With most of its batsmen out of form, Punjab will be heavily dependent on Murali Vijay to come good again. His 57-ball 89 against Bangalore saw him lead the charge from the front literally and figuratively. Adding another big knock to his tally of four half centuries may not be a big deal for the Punjab skipper.

The Mumbai Indians was expected to arrive in the City of Destiny on Thursday evening from Bengaluru with not enough time left for a practice session. At the Vizag venue, heaven’s artillery held sway, under a densely overcast sky, well over an hour before Kings XI was to reach the stadium for its scheduled training session.

A downpour had the square brought under wraps, while much of the outfield was left exposed. The drainage system is however efficient and can be expected to dry in time for Friday’s game. The Kings called off their pre-match practice and their media conference.

“Even if it rains the whole night, the sub-soil will soak up the water and divert it to the main drain. The match can start as scheduled, provided it doesn’t rain further during the day (on Friday),” said Andhra Cricket Association curator K. Nagamallaiah. So confident is he with the facility, that only the square and run-up areas are covered.

If the match does happen, the sporting strip should offer support to both bat and ball. Known to help the pacemen initially, the track takes turn subsequently. That should be good news for Axar Patel and other members of the tweaking tribe. If the weather continues to be cloudy, the dew factor could impact the fielding.

To climb out of its current rut may be a tall order for Punjab. If momentum carries the day, Mumbai Indians, the reigning champion, should pull off another victory.

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