PUNE: After registering a long overdue victory against Sunrisers Hyderabad on the road on Tuesday, Rising Pune Supergiants and captain MS Dhoni will be hoping to keep the momentum going as they return to home comforts here for their next IPL engagement.
What awaits them at the MCA International Stadium on Friday will be a testing battle against fellow newcomers Gujarat Lions. And revenge will be on the minds of the home team, as they try to reverse a seven-wicket defeat suffered at the hands of the Lions a fortnight ago in Rajkot.
Pune went on to lose three more games since, before overcoming Hyderabad by 34 runs, via the D/L method. “It’s important to win games. We had only won one out of the first five. You cannot be in the middle of the chart to qualify for the semifinals. There are quite a few teams on 4 or 6 points, and we are within reach,” Dhoni said.
The game at Hyderabad was one in which all departments finally turned up for Pune, and the Jharkhand lad will be hoping that his boys emulate the same against Gujarat. However, another injury blow in the form of the in-form Faf du Plessis, who will miss out the rest of tournament with a fractured finger, will test the Pune outfit, who have already lost Kevin Pietersen. Meanwhile, Australia opener Usman Khawaja has been confirmed as replacement for the English batsman.
While Dhoni & Co are in mid-table, their opponents are top, winning all but one of their six games so far. Though they had a lucky escape in their previous match against Delhi Daredevils, Gujarat, on the whole, have the looks of the team to beat this season. Their batting, led by captain Suresh Raina, Aaron Finch and Brendon McCullum, is in red-hot form, while Dwayne Bravo and Dhawal Kulkarni have developed an envious bowling partnership.
The spin duo of the ageless Pravin Tambe and Ravindra Jadega have come good, but the same cannot be said about Pune’s bowling. However, the induction of pacers Ashok Dinda and Mitchell Marsh, who picked up three and two wickets, respectively, in the previous game, looked to have lifted the bowling unit.
“What you saw happening in Hyderabad was good bowling in helpful conditions. You saw the introduction of Dinda, who grabbed the opportunity well, and Marsh, was also good with the ball,” said Supergiants coach Stephen Fleming. “We bowled in the right areas and fielded well.”
pros & cons
With a win against the Sunrisers Hyderabad breathing life into their campaign, the Rising Pune Supergiants face a tough obstacle in Gujarat Lions. Though their go-to man Aaron Finch’s fitness is still in doubt, Dwayne Smith seems to have filled his shoes quite well. With Faf du Plessis and Kevin Pietersen missing out due to injuries, Pune will be banking on the likes of skipper MS Dhoni and Steve Smith to come good.
Pitch & Conditions
A batsman-friendly surface is expected to be on offer for the clash.