Dharamsala: Against the spectre of spot-fixing, the Indian Premier League will continue on its road to the play-offs as Mumbai Indian and Kings XI Punjab play their last league fixture here on Saturday. While Punjab's outside chance of reaching the top-four has already been blown away by Sunrisers Hyderabad who beat Rajasthan Royals on Friday to register their ninth win, Mumbai would want to finish with a win to consolidate their position as No. 1 in the points table.
Slowly gathering momentum towards the latter half of the group stage, the Adam Gilchrist-led side was coming off promising wins over RCB and Delhi Daredevils, but the franchise is now left to lick its wounds after Hyderabad's win over Rajasthan. While Hyderabad now have 18 points, Punjab can at most reach only 16 by winning on Saturday.
With pride at stake, a rejuvenated Punjab batting unit would look to capitalise on the current form of their batsmen, especially Gilchrist who has found form, albeit a touch late. With 85 not out against RCB and 42 against Delhi, the former Aussie wicketkeeper-batsman is showing ominous signs for the opposition.
His opening partner Shaun Marsh too has been middling the ball well and will need to carry forward his good form. David Miller chipped in with a 24-ball 44 with the help of four sixes, to help the home team post a competitive 171 for 4.
With the ball, Praveen Kumar has led a decent unit that has seen the likes of Parwinder Awana and Sandeep Sharma rise to the occasion and bowl with precision. Awana, in particular, has been among the wickets, while Sharma looked good against Delhi, constantly keeping the batsmen in check with three wickets on a quick surface.
Mumbai, on the other hand, have been on a roll. They have looked an entirely different unit ever since Rohit Sharma took charge. With all-round performances over the last five matches, Mumbai are looking a solid bet to lift the title. An injury to Sachin Tendulkar opened the doors for Aditya Tare who finally got a game after waiting three years in the wings. However, Tendulkar is most likely to return into the thick of things and get a good knock in the middle before the play-offs commence. Kieron Pollard, who stormed to good form with a brutal 66 off 27 deliveries against Hyderabad, Dinesh Karthik and Rohit have carried the Mumbai batting order.
Mitchell Johnson has been the pick of the Mumbai bowlers. After missing out in the first few games, the Aussie left-armer has been the side's go-to man with the ball. Harbhajan Singh has given breakthroughs in the middle and Lasith Malinga's bowling at the death has always been an ace up Mumbai's sleeves.
As Dharamsala gets set to host its second match, this game presents different objectives to the two sides involved. While Punjab will like to sign off the season with a win, Mumbai will be out to make sure they enter the play-offs with the winning momentum.
Kings XI Punjab: 1 Adam Gilchrist (capt/wk), 2 Shaun Marsh, 3 Azhar Mahmood, 4 David Miller, 5 R Sathish, 6 Mandeep Singh, 7 Manan Vohra, 8 Piyush Chawla, 9 Praveen Kumar, 10 Parvinder Awana, 11 Sandeep Sharma
Mumbai Indians: 1 Sachin Tendulkar, 2 Glenn Maxwell/Dwayne Smith, 3 Dinesh Karthik (wk), 4 Rohit Sharma (capt), 5 Kieron Pollard, 6 Ambati Rayadu, 7 Harbhajan Singh, 8 Mitchell Johnson, 9 Pragyan Ojha, 10 Dhawal Kulkarni, 11 Lasith Malinga