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No room for error for RCB and Mumbai

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Big Picture

With two wins each in the first half of the season, there is little breathing room for either Royal Challengers Bangalore or Mumbai Indians in their last seven league games. Realistically, both will need to win six of those seven remaining games to have a shot at making the playoffs.

That makes this head-on clash critical to the fortunes of both the teams.

Mumbai won their last game while RCB lost theirs, but both gained positives from belatedly embracing change. Mumbai left out Kieron Pollard to rejig an underperforming middle order, while Royal Challengers included Tim Southee and strengthened what had till then been one of the worst bowling attacks in the competition.

The Pollard exclusion hasn’t been fully tested yet, since Mumbai only lost two wickets in their chase against Chennai Super Kings, but their batting order – with Ben Cutting also slotting in, in place of Mustafizur Rahman – looked ominous, with serious hitting ability all the way down to No. 8.

The Southee inclusion helped RCB gain some control against Kolkata Knight Riders’ top order in what Brendon McCullum felt were “probably the best ten overs we’ve had as a [bowling] group”. That it didn’t translate to a win shouldn’t dishearten RCB too much, as they attempt to take whatever positive energy they can muster into their last home game until May 17.

In the news

RCB’s stores of positive energy will be greatly enhanced if AB de Villiers, who missed their game on Sunday night with viral fever, has recovered enough to slot back into their line-up.

Previous meeting

Rohit Sharma’s 94 off 52 propelled Mumbai to 213 for 6. With wickets tumbling at the other end, Virat Kohli’s rather more pedestrian 92 off 62 ended up as an exercise to minimise Royal Challengers’ net-run-rate damage.

Likely XIs

Royal Challengers Bangalore: 1 Quinton de Kock (wk), 2 Virat Kohli (capt), 3 AB de Villiers, 4 Manan Vohra, 5 Mandeep Singh, 6 Colin de Grandhomme, 7 Tim Southee, 8 M Ashwin, 9 Umesh Yadav, 10 Yuzvendra Chahal, 11 Mohammed Siraj

Mumbai Indians: 1 Suryakumar Yadav, 2 Evin Lewis, 3 Rohit Sharma (capt), 4 Ishan Kishan (wk), 5 JP Duminy, 6 Hardik Pandya, 7 Krunal Pandya, 8 Ben Cutting, 9 Mitchell McClenaghan, 10 Mayank Markande, 11 Jasprit Bumrah

Strategy punt

RCB have been the worst bowling team in the death overs this season, conceding 13.19 runs per over and a boundary every 3.3 balls. Mumbai’s misfiring middle order has meant they are second from bottom among batting sides at the death, scoring only 8.33 runs per over while losing a wicket every 13.7 balls.

Mumbai, however, have rejigged their middle order, with JP Duminy and Ben Cutting featuring in the starting XI in the side’s last game against Super Kings. Given how badly RCB have struggled as a bowling side, Mumbai could consider retaining the same line-up, which sacrificed a frontline bowler to gain batting depth, and give themselves the license to hit out from ball one.

They could, however, bring back Mustafizur Rahman (against whom de Villiers has a T20 strike rate of 94.7) for Mitchell McClenaghan (v de Villiers, strike rate 191.2).

Stats that matter

  • Mumbai have won each of the last five meetings between the two sides, and have a 16-8 win-loss record against RCB overall.

  • Suryakumar Yadav has been involved in Mumbai’s highest partnership in six of their seven matches so far.

  • The second spinner has been one of the many problem areas for RCB this season. While Yuzvendra Chahal has been the team’s most economical bowler this season (7.92), the other spinners – M Ashwin, Washington Sundar and Pawan Negi – have combined to concede 9.70 per over while picking up seven wickets at an average of 37.43.

  • Since 2015, Rohit Sharma has averaged 44.9 and struck at 142.8 in matches Mumbai have won. In losses, the corresponding figures are 23.0 and 125.5, which tells you how much his team depends on his runs.

  • The M Chinnaswamy Stadium is no longer the fortress it used to be. Since the start of the 2017 season, RCB have won only three of their 11 matches here. Where the Rajiv Gandhi International Stadium in Hyderabad has been the venue most congenial to the home side in this period (Sunrisers Hyderabad have won nine out of 11 games there), the Chinnaswamy has been the second-worst, behind the SCA Stadium in Rajkot, where Gujarat Lions lost four out of their five games last year.

Fantasy pick

JP Duminy didn’t get to bat in Mumbai’s last game, but he remains a good fantasy selection given his record in Bengaluru: he has played four IPL games here and passed 40 three times, with a highest of 67 not out, all this while striking at 169.07.

Quotes

“He has been performing well at all positions, not only as an opener, but one down or two down. In the last game, he came up to No. 3. It was his responsibility. In the coming games, we’ll see more of it.”
Suryakumar Yadav, Mumbai’s top-scorer so far, on Rohit Sharma’s batting position



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IPL 2020 – ‘Won’t be surprised if CSK continue with MS Dhoni as captain’

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Gautam Gambhir believes that despite the Chennai Super Kings enduring its poorest season in IPL history this time in the UAE, the franchise will retain MS Dhoni as their captain in 2021 because of the “fabulous relationship” they share.

“You’re putting me in a fix. Now that’s a tough question. It up to the franchise. What he has done for the franchise and how the franchise actually deals with MS and treats MS is a fabulous relationship,” Gambhir told ESPNcricinfo in response to a question on the leadership of the Super Kings after a season where they could well end up finishing bottom of the table. “And that is how every franchise should deal with their captain, who has delivered for them.”

Dhoni’s future as player and as captain have come under severe scrutiny after the Super Kings became the first team to be eliminated from the playoffs’ race this IPL despite starting with a victory over defending champions the Mumbai Indians. They have since lost eight games and won just three more. And Dhoni is among several senior batsmen who have struggled to find form.

Gambhir felt that the relationship Dhoni and the Super Kings have developed since the inaugural season (2008), when he was bought by the franchise and appointed captain, was a unique one. And the “mutual respect” they shared, Gambhir pointed out, was the reason the Super Kings have been one of the most successful teams in the IPL – three titles (only behind the Mumbai Indians’ four) in addition to winning the Champions League T20 twice.

“I keep saying that CSK is CSK because of the relationship between the owners and the captain. They have given all the freedom to MS, and MS has received all the mutual respect from the owners as well. So I would not be surprised if they continue with MS and MS plays till the time he wants to play.”

Gautam Gambhir

“MS has won them three [IPL] trophies, couple of Champions Leagues, he has made them one of the top successful sides in the IPL after Mumbai Indians,” Gambhir said. “So CSK saying they are going to continue with MS – it is just the relationship, it is just the mutual respect. That’s why MS has been so loyal (to the Super Kings). That’s why MS has given everything: heart and soul, his sweat, sleepless nights – I’m sure he must have had sleepless nights while he has continued captaining CSK.

“I know people talk about that you should not be emotional, but then there is a connect. You’ve got to appreciate what the captain or a player has done for your franchise, how much hard work he has put in, because it is not easy being the captain of any franchise and that also for a such a long period of time.”

The Super Kings management has said that Dhoni would be retained at the next mega auction, which is likely to be pushed to 2022 with the 2021 IPL scheduled to begin next April. There is a likelihood of a mini auction taking place, but Gambhir was confident that Dhoni’s position was not in doubt for 2021.

“He deserves that much of appreciation from the owners,” Gambhir said. “I keep saying that why CSK is CSK is because of the relationship between the owners and the captain. They have given all the freedom to MS, and MS has received all the mutual respect from the owners as well.

“So I would not be surprised if they continue with MS and MS plays till the time he wants to play. And then next year he still continues to be the captain and have a much different squad than what he has this time around.”



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QeA Trophy – Sarfaraz Ahmed trumps Azhar Ali as Sindh win, Hussain Talat 253 routs Northern

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Last year at the Quaid-e-Azam Trophy, only 10 matches in the entire season produced results. The opening round saw all two off three matches drawn, with huge scores dominating games and little chance of a result in sight. The signs this time indicate this could be a very different QeA season. All three games ended up producing winners and losers; two of them saw results inside three days. The one likeliest to result in a draw, though, was saved by some aggressive captaincy by Azhar Ali, though it didn’t quite work out for him the way he’d have liked.

Sarfaraz Ahmed pips Azhar Ali

This game held particular intrigue from a personal match-up point of view, with the two men leading Central Punjab and Sindh also the pair who have swapped captaincy at international level for much of the past five years. And with Azhar’s Test captaincy reputed to be slipping from his grasp, a positive result here might have revived his fortunes. So as soon as he saw the game meandering to a draw, he declared Central Punjab’s second innings, setting Sindh 212 to win in just under two sessions.

It was the sort of captaincy Azhar isn’t exactly reputed for, but set up a tantalising finale to what should have been a bore draw. Sindh came out all guns blazing, while Central Punjab’s bowlers didn’t quite carry the threat their captain might have hoped for on a fading final afternoon. Saud Shakeel‘s 69-ball 61 led the charge, while Asad Shafiq, hopelessly out of form internationally, took over once he’d been dismissed to ensure Sindh didn’t just bat for light. Hassan Mohsin gave him good company, and with minutes remaining before the light faded decisively, Shafiq cleared his front leg to deposit the ball over cow corner to seal a dramatic finish.

Hussain Talat, Shan Masood get South Punjab off to flying start

Northern were the underdogs everyone rooted for along their run to the final last year, but repeating the feat may prove trickier on the evidence of the first match. Nauman Ali’s side were routed from the outset, bowled out inside 50 overs despite electing to bat first. Zahid Mahmood and Agha Salman took seven of the wickets before South Punjab batted Northern well out of the match thanks mainly to Hussain Talat and Shan Masood. Talat amassed a career-best 253, while Masood scored 134 of his own to give their side a colossal 342-run lead in the first innings.

With clinical efficiency, Northern’s bowlers set to work once more, Zahid Masood completing a 10-for with six wickets in the second innings. Mohammad Abbas removed two at the top to open up the middle order early, and there was little sign South Punjab would be forced into batting again. Hammad Azam’s 79 was the only thing resembling resistance from Northern, but it wasn’t to stop them from crumbling to an innings defeat.

Yasir Shah leads Balochistan to winning start

Yasir Shah might face an uphill task if he is to convince Pakistan’s selectors to send him with the national side off to their next assignment in New Zealand, given his poor record in the southern hemisphere. Here in Karachi, though, he couldn’t have asked for a better start, taking eight wickets – four in each innings – to help Balochistan beat Khyber Pakhtunkhwa. Bismillah Khan‘s century saw them get to 362 in the first innings, before Yasir and Khurram Shehzad, who took a five-fer, skittled KP out for 167.

That slowed Balochistan to set them a virtually insurmountable 413 to get in the fourth innings, and with five sessions to go, batting out ad raw seemed out of reach, too. Yasir was the man who ran through some middle order resistance to guarantee the game wouldn’t even need a fourth day, as he and Kashif Bhatti finished with a combined eight wickets to consign KP to a 186-run defeat.



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MI vs RCB, 48th match, IPL 2020

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Welcome to ESPNcricinfo’s Rolling Report of the 48th game of IPL 2020, between the Mumbai Indians vs Royal Challengers Bangalore. The likes of Kieron Pollard, Trent Boult, Jasprit Bumrah and Hardik Pandya will take on the likes of Virat Kohli, AB de Villiers, Chris Morris, Yuzvendra Chahal, and others in Abu Dhabi.

Mumbai Indians vs Royal Challengers Bangalore

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