Qualifier 1, preview: Stokes may be missed but Pune the favourites against Mumbai

Rising Pune Supergiant (RPS), by registering a nine-wicket win against Kings XI Punjab (KXIP), not only qualified for the IPL 2017 playoffs but they also secured a top-two spot and a match-up against the team who they did the double on in the league stage, Mumbai Indians (MI). Though this is a knockout round, the scenario for these two teams featuring in qualifier 1 is slightly different: yes, you will want to win and go straight into the final; however, in case you don’t, you still get another chance of qualifying for the final, by playing the winner of the eliminator.

Road to the IPL 2017 playoffs

Rohit Sharma and co. were consistent throughout the preliminary phase, winning 71.42 per cent of their matches (10/14) and losing back-to-back matches only once. They began the season with a seven-wicket defeat to Rising Pune. But thereafter went on a six-match winning streak which was also brought to an end by Steve Smith’s men. Mumbai stuttered a touch towards the end of the league stage, but they go into qualifier 1 on the back of a good win against Kolkata Knight Riders and therefore confident of reaching their fourth IPL final.

After beginning their second and last season in the IPL with an emphatic victory over their Maharashtra derby rivals, Supergiant went on a three-match losing streak, which saw them lose to Kings XI Punjab, Delhi Daredevils and Gujarat Lions, before recovering their season and finishing the league stage in second place. Smith and co. lost just two of their last eight league matches.

The most impressive aspect of Rising Pune’s renaissance was the significant contributions of the capped and uncapped Indian players like Rahul Tripathi, Washington Sundar, Jaydev Unadkat, and Manoj Tiwary. Even 16 points were not enough for Pune to qualify. But they swept aside an erratic Kings XI side by nine wickets in their last league match and put themselves alongside Mumbai in qualifier 1, which will be played at the Wankhede Stadium on May 16.

MI vs RPS head-to-head

Pune Supergiant hold a 3-1 head-to-head record against the Mumbai Indians in four matches so far. But more impressively, they’ve won both their matches at the Wankhede, where they have chased and defended totals successfully.

Qualifier 1: MI vs RPS playing XI

Mumbai made as many as six changes for their last and inconsequential league match against Knight Riders at the Eden Gardens. And, of the six players who played on Saturday night, I expect Ambati Rayudu to retain his place in Mumbai’s playing XI for qualifier 1. Nitish Rana might well sit out because of the drop in his batting form and also because Rayudu looks in supreme touch despite the long injury layoff.

Parthiv Patel, Jasprit Bumrah, Harbhajan Singh, and Mitchell McClenaghan are expected to return to the side too. And, in case of no fresh injuries, expect the two-time IPL champions to go back to the playing XI which they fielded during their six-match winning streak in the league stage.

MI’s probable playing XI for qualifier 1: 1. Rohit Sharma (c), 2. Parthiv Patel (wk), 3. Lendl Simmons, 4. Ambati Rayudu, 5. Kieron Pollard, 6. Krunal Pandya, 7. Hardik Pandya, 8. Harbhajan Singh, 9. Mitchell Johnson/Lasith Malinga, 10. Mitchell McClenaghan, and 11. Jasprit Bumrah

Mumbai’s actual playing XI: 1. Rohit Sharma (c), 2. Parthiv Patel (wk), 3. Lendl Simmons, 4. Ambati Rayudu, 5. Kieron Pollard, 6. Krunal Pandya, 7. Hardik Pandya, 8. Karn Sharma, 9. Lasith Malinga, 10. Mitchell McClenaghan, and 11. Jasprit Bumrah

Ben Stokes is a player who you can’t replace. Period. He bowls tight overs, takes wickets more often than not, instills fear in the opposition with the bat, and is a magnificent fielder who doesn’t have to be hidden on the field. Put together, Stokes offers an enviable package.

So, who will Pune replace Stokes with?

Lockie Ferguson is the more pertinent replacement. And though the New Zealand pacer will not be a like-for-like replacement for the English all-rounder, he’s a wicket-taker who can get you early wickets. Considering how strong a batting line-up Mumbai possess, you need to pick wickets early to keep yourself in the contest, let alone gain a foothold. Secondly, Usman Khawaja, being a pure batsman, might struggle to fit into what’s a settled Pune Supergiant batting line-up featuring Ajinkya Rahane, Tripathi, Steve Smith, MS Dhoni, and Manoj Tiwary.

Other than this forced change, Rising Pune aren’t expected to tinker with their playing XI from Sunday evening.

RPS’s probable playing XI for qualifier 1: 1. Steve Smith (c), 2. Ajinkya Rahane, 3. Rahul Tripathi, 4. MS Dhoni (wk), 5. Manoj Tiwary, 6. Daniel Christian, 7. Washington Sundar, 8. Shardul Thakur, 9. Lockie Ferguson, 10. Jaydev Unadkat, and 11. Adam Zampa

Pune’s actual playing XI is the same as what Cricfooty had predicted.

Cricfooty’s prediction for qualifier 1

Pune are at an advantage because of their underdog status going into their third clash against Mumbai this season. Nobody expected them to do this well and even now, in Stokes’s absence, they are not expected to trouble the other three teams. In addition, Pune’s Indian contingent has done well and is in form, giving them an edge in the head-to-head tussles against their Indian counterparts in the Mumbai line-up.

Mumbai, on paper, are the stronger side and as a unit, many of their players have the experience of having played in IPL playoffs before and even won a title.

Tell us who do you back to win tomorrow night’s qualifier. 

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