Two bottom-placed teams, Rising Pune Supergiants and Kings XI Punjab will aim to end their turbulent Indian Premier League (IPL) campaign with a win when they take on each other here on Saturday.
Both Pune and Punjab have eight points each and are placed in the seventh and eight spot respectively on the league table — the former are ahead on better net run rate. A win will help the teams avoid the last spot and it can be a big motivation.
Both the sides are out of the race for the play-offs but the cricketers in each side will like to give respite to their shattered reputation in their final league game.
Pune are coming into the match with a comprehensive win over Delhi Daredevils and that should give confidence to the Mahendra Singh Dhoni-led side.
Having lost their premier foreign recruits — Steven Smith, Faf du Plessis, Kevin Pietersen and Mitchell Marsh — to injuries, the side’s batting has revolved around the ever-dependable Ajinkya Rahane (461 runs). The Mumbai right-hander has six fifties so far and will look to continue the good work.
Skipper Dhoni, Saurabh Tiwary and all-rounder Thisara Perera have been mostly inconsistent in their contributions. The focus will also be on Australian batting duo of Usman Khawaja and George Bailey.
The bowling will be led by off-spinner Ravichandran Ashwin, who has been a shadow of his impressive self in the tournament so far.
Leg-spinners Murugan Ashwin and Adam Zampa will once again be Dhoni’s go-to bowlers along with the pace duo of Ashok Dinda and R.P. Singh.
Zampa has been their find of the edition and the young Australian leg-spinner will look to add more to his tally of 11 wickets from four outings in order to impress his national selectors.
Pune’s opposition Punjab will also look to avoid the wooden spoon for the second successive edition. They also had finished last in 2010.
This edition even a midway change in captaincy — replacing David Miller with Murali Vijay — din’t help them as they faltered due to the batting failures.
The team’s batting will depend on Vijay and Protea Hashim Amla, who hit a brilliant 96 in the match against Sunrisers Hyderabad.
With Glenn Maxwell out of the tournament, David Miller, stumper Wriddhiman Saha, all-rounder Marcus Stoinis are expected to bolster the middle order.
The bowing will centre around seamers Sandeep Sharma (14 wickets) and Mohit Sharma (12 wickets). Left-arm spinner Axar Patel with 12 wickets, including a hat-trick, has not been bad either but somehow failed to click as an unit.