Defending champions Mumbai Indians (MI) will look to make the most of their morale-boosting victory over Kings XI Punjab and continue their resurgence when they lock horns with Kolkata Knight Riders (KKR) in an Indian Premier League (IPL) clash at the Wankhede Stadium here on Sunday.
MI recorded a thrilling win over Punjab on Friday night in a tie they had to win to keep alive their slim chances of making the play-offs.
The victory lifted Mumbai to fifth in the points table but thanks to a spate of reverses over the past few weeks, the Rohit Sharma-led side still have a stiff mountain to climb.
The 21-ball 56-run blitzkrieg between Krunal Pandya and Rohit Sharma in Indore helped MI turn the tables on more fancied Punjab, who are now placed fourth.
The hosts have to win all their remaining five games to make it to the play-offs.
In KKR, they will find a rival who have more often than not got the better of them.
Suryakumar Yadav (340 runs) has been in great form for MI and has scored consistently.
But his opening partner, West Indian Evin Lewis has disappointed and will need to step up against KKR whose spin trio of Kuldeep Yadav, Piyush Chawla and Sunil Narine can be very dangerous.
Skipper Rohit, who struggled to get going initially, has found some sort of form and now will have to lead from the front.
KKR are sitting comfortably in the third position and Dinesh Karthik’s side will be full of confidence coming into the game after registering a facile victory against the mighty Chennai Super Kings at the Eden Gardens.
An area where MI need to improve is their bowling in the death overs.
The likes of New Zealander Mitchell McClenaghan Hardik Pandya, who leaked over 20 runs in the final over against Punjab, have failed to keep it tight.
Jasprit Bumrah, Ben Cutting and young leggie Mayank Markande (12 wickets) also have to buck up if KKR’s strong batting line-up is to be tamed.
For KKR, the batting has looked steady with Karthik scoring 280 runs in nine matches followed by Chris Lynn and Andre Russell, with 260 and 207 runs respectively.
The firepower of Narine at the top and the emergence of youngster Shubhman Gill in the middle order adds teeth to their batting.
KKR will hope to welcome back in-form Nitish Rana, who was suffering from a back spasm and missed the last game.
KKR pacers Tom Curran, veteran Mitchell Johnson and rookie Shivam Mavi need to step up and deliver.
KKR: Dinesh Karthik (captain), Sunil Narine, Andre Russell, Chris Lynn, Robin Uthappa, Kuldeep Yadav, Piyush Chawla, Nitish Rana, Prasidh Krishna, Shivam Mavi, Mitchell Johnson, Shubman Gill, R. Vinay Kumar, Rinku Singh, Cameron Delport, Javon Searless, Apoorv Wankhade, Ishank Jaggi, Tom Curran.
MI: Rohit Sharma (captain), Suryakumar Yadav, Evin Lewis, Ishan Kishan, Hardik Pandya, Krunal Pandya, Kieron Pollard, Mayank Markande, Mitchell McLenaghan, Mustafizur Rahaman, Jasprit Bumrah, Akila Dananjaya, Ben Cutting, JP Duminy, Rahul Chahar, Sharad Lumba, Adam Milne, Siddhesh Lad, Md Nidheesh, Mohsin Khan, Anukul Roy, Pradeep Sangwan, Tajinder Singh, Aditya Tare, Saurabh Tiwary.