The Gujarat Lions are on the top of their game, playing some wonderful cricket in IPL 2016. They are looking for their third straight win in the competition as they visit the MCA stadium to battle it out against Rising Pune Supergiants on Friday. A victory here for the Gujarat Lions, who currently have 10 points, will help them increase their lead at the top to four points over second-placed Kolkata Knight Riders.
This is a game, which is even more important to RPS. The home team are keen to register their third victory of the season and move up the table. Skipper MS Dhoni needs to bring all his IPL experience and lead his team from the front against the Gujarat Lions.
Here is a look at how the game might play in Pune.
If RPS bat first: Two matches have been played at the MCA stadium in IPL 2016, and batsmen have been able to score runs quite freely. Win the toss, and bat first, seems to be an ideal situation in Pune.
Ajinkya Rahane starts off with some elegant drives through the covers while his partner Peter Handscomb is yet to hit top gear. The Australian, trying to score quick runs, is back in the dugout after edging the ball to Dinesh Karthik. Steve Smith and Rahane are in control, and play risk free shots for some boundaries. Spinner Ravindra Jadeja comes into the action, and there is some turn, which gets Smith out. Mitchell Marsh is promoted up the order. The Australian thrashes the GL bowlers all around the park, and the score reaches 120 runs in 16 overs. With four overs to go, Rahane plays an uncharacteristic wild shot and is out for 53 runs. Marsh and Dhoni goes berserk in the last few overs, and RPS score 168 runs.
The Gujarat Lions are dependent on their openers – Dwayne Smith and Brendon McCullum -- and the duo does not disappoint, taking the RPS bowlers to the cleaners. Another flying start by the pair, as they score 67 runs during the Powerplay. Smith and McCullum do not stop playing their shots, reaching 100 runs in 10.1 overs. They have the game in the bag, but both openers are gone in the 11th over. Fear creeps in, as the middle order did not consolidate in their last game against Delhi Daredevils after a good start. But the Lions batsmen have learnt their lesson as Suresh Raina and Karthik play sensible cricket to reach the target in the 18th over.
If Gujarat Lions bat first: Smith and McCullum do what they know best – hit fours and sixes at will during the Powerplay. McCullum scores 50 runs in 32 balls, and gets out in the eight over. Smith is still going strong at the other end, as Suresh Raina fails to open his account. Karthik looks in fine form as he shows his class against the spinners -- Murugan Ashwin and Ravichandran Ashwin --, playing the reverse and slog sweep to good effect. One reverse shot too many from Karthik leads to him being out in the 16th over after scoring 35 runs. Smith also follows suit for 63. Two new batsmen, Dwayne Bravo and James Faulkner, score some important runs in the last five overs, to reach a total of 176 runs.
RPS suffer a disastrous start as old-war horse Praveen Kumar dismisses key player Rahane in the first over. Smith looks in good touch as he scores some important runs alsongside Handscomb, but the required rate is increasing every over. RPS lose both the players in the final over of the Powerplay, which makes it difficult for them to chase down the huge score. Dhoni and Marsh builds the innings despite the required rate being 13 runs per over. The game is more or less over as Dhoni is trapped leg before by Bravo. With pressure getting to the RPS batsmen, they fall like nine pins and are all out for 130 runs. Another defeat for RPS, who felt Kevin Pietersen and Faf Du Plessis' absence in Pune.