Crescent Kashmir

Buoyed Titans aim to nudge ahead in playoff race

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“Rohit Sharma, any day, any time,” says Harbhajan Singh on who he would rather bowl to – Rohit or MS Dhoni. “A very difficult batsman to bowl to, a class player in terms of batting skill… If Rohit bats from the beginning to the end, then there is no better player than him.”

Rohit has not exactly lived up to such words this IPL. Scores of 1, 21, 65, 20, 28 and 44 are not bad numbers, but that standard is for the lesser mortals. Greater things are expected from the India and the Mumbai Indians skipper.

As they say, Rohit gets the starts, but conversions have eluded him and more often than not he is the first batsman to get out as an opener, leave aside batting till the end as Harbhajan hopes. A strike rate of over 142 is healthy but it’s time he got into bigger scores for his franchise to have chances of progress in the league.

At the Narendra Modi Stadium in Ahmedabad, where Mumbai Indians take on Gujarat Titans, on Tuesday evening, Rohit was seen having a long batting session on Monday evening. He was the lone MI batter at the centre wicket and the skipper must be aware that his contribution at the top of the order is in order.

Six points from six games is not a bad start for a team that is notoriously slow off the blocks but with the league reaching the half-way stage, the four-time champions would be looking to their captain as well some of their bowlers, mainly Jofra Archer to step up. The team got out-batted by Punjab Kings at home in their last game but the subjugation started once they had conceded over 200 runs after choosing to bowl.

But conceding 214 runs was no fault of Piyush Chawla, the season’s best bowler for the franchise with nine wickets in six games and he will have extra advantage at the Motera which has been his home ground in domestic cricket. The veteran leggie said he is happy to come back to Gujarat for which he has been representing for six years in the domestic circuit.

“I have been playing cricket for so long that wherever I go it feels like my home ground only,” the leg-break bowler said on the eve of the match. “I have already played six years for Gujarat. It’s a beautiful feeling to come back home but once you enter the field, you don’t think about whether it is the home team or not. You want to put the best foot forward.”

Chawla will be the bowler that Gujarat Titans will be cautious of apart from Archer, who seems to have recovered from his elbow injury. The defending champions’ season has seen two last over miracles – against Kolkata Knight Riders and Lucknow Super Giants. After being stunned by KKR’s Rinku Singh, who hammered five sixes in the last over, the Titans did well to claims four wickets in the final over against LSG, courtesy Mohit Sharma.

“The last win in Lucknow was a huge win for us. We have played very good cricket. We can improve certain areas. I don’t think we need to be too concerned just yet. It is going to be a cracker of a game tomorrow,” said David Miller of Titans, who admittedly, are in high spirits after the Lucknow jailbreak.

With two teams that are in good form and packed with power players in all the areas, it is expected to be a cracker of a game, as Miller predicted, in front of 100,000 people at the Narendra Modi Stadium.

What: GT vs MI, Match 35, IPL 2023, at 7:30 PM

Where: Narendra Modi Stadium, Ahmedabad

What to expect: All three games so far at the venue have been won by sides chasing. 177 is the lowest total in six innings here this season, so expect another high-scoring encounter. The temperature is expected to hover around 37 degrees in the evening, with no rain expected. Dew could have a major role to play in tactics and decision making.

Head to head: The teams have faced each other only once, when GT couldn’t pull off a run-chase with nine needed off the final over.


Gujarat Titans

Back on a better pitch for the batters, GT are likely to bring back Alzarri Joseph in place of Noor Ahmad, who managed to make a mark on his full-time debut for the franchise in the last game.

Tactics & matchups:Rashid Khan has a favourable match-up against Rohit Sharma (21 balls, 23 runs, 3 dismissals) and is expected to bowl up top.

Probable XI: Wriddhiman Saha(w), Shubman Gill, Hardik Pandya(c), Vijay Shankar, Abhinav Manohar, David Miller, Rahul Tewatia, Rashid Khan, Mohammed Shami, Alzarri Joseph, Mohit Sharma

Mumbai Indians

All eyes will be on Arjun Tendulkar who went for a fair few runs against Punjab Kings. Batting wise, Dewald Brevis is again expected to warm the bench as the MI batting unit continues to come together well.

Tactics & matchups:Piyush Chawla, who impressed in the last game too, has gotten David Miller out twice. More importantly, Miller scores his runs against Chawla at a strike-rate of only 89, so expect the legspinner to have a go at the left-hander once again.

Probable XI: Rohit Sharma(c), Ishan Kishan(w), Cameron Green, Suryakumar Yadav, Tim David, Tilak Varma, Arjun Tendulkar, Hrithik Shokeen, Jofra Archer, Piyush Chawla, Jason Behrendorff

Did you know?

Since IPL 2020, Rahul Tewatia averages 58.50 and strikes at 195 against left-arm pace.

Both Ishan Kishan and Tilak Verma strike at around 150 against leg spin since the start of 2020 season.

What they said

“There are a lot of teams who are already on eight points but most of the teams have played seven games and we have played six. So, one more game here and if we win we will be in the same hunt. We are not very far behind. But yes, we would like to have a couple of more wins in the next couple of games.” – Piyush Chawla, Mumbai Indians spinner

“Momentum is big in this competition. Coming back from a really close win in the last game, gives us a boosting for the games to come. If we look at the next 10 days, we got a few games back-to-back and it is a good time to step up.” – David Miller, Gujarat Titans batter

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