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The Preview by Devashish Fuloria
September 22, 2013
Match factsSeptember 23, 2013
Big PictureMumbai Indians, the IPL champions, appeared rusty against Rajasthan Royals on a juicy pitch in Jaipur and with only three more matches remaining in the group stage for them, they will need to find their groove immediately. There aren't any such problems for the team they face next. Otago Volts came to the tournament as virtual unknowns but, given their three dominating outings in the qualifiers, they are now the team to watch out for.
Otago came into the tournament well-prepared: they played four Twenty20 matches in eight days in Sri Lanka and won all of them. The effect of match practice was visible in the manner they destroyed Faisalabad Wolves in their first match and Kandurata Maroons in the second. Sunrisers Hyderabad were expected to offer a sterner test, but they too were bulldozed in the final qualifier. Brendon McCullum, the Otago captain, has been in red-hot form and his presence has made an already strong batting line-up appear intimidating. Hamish Rutherford was solid at the top and Jimmy Neesham appeared unfazed by the quality of spin. Add Ryan ten Doeschate's all-round brilliance and a balanced bowling attack to the mix and it becomes clear why the team has won their last 13 T20s.
However, Otago's success in the qualifiers came on a Mohali pitch which offered some help to their medium pacers. In Ahmedabad, on a batting pitch, against a team with batsmen who hit the ball long, the Otago bowling could come under pressure.
Mumbai Indians might have failed to put up a good total in their first match, but they do possess serious batting ability in their ranks and their bowling has enough venom to sting the best. But the two major changes - the absence of Lasith Malinga and the presence of Sachin Tendulkar - to their XI from the latter stages of the IPL, when they displayed their best form, and a lack of match practice are the areas Otago will seek to exploit.
Watch out forThe availability of Mitchell Johnson for Mumbai Indians last season relieved the team of the headache of planning the fast-bowling strategy solely around Lasith Malinga. Johnson was excellent with the new ball, picking up most of his 24 wickets in his first spell, which meant that Malinga was preserved for the death overs. In the first Champions League match against Royals, he did generate searing pace and was denied the vital wicket of Sanju Samson by the umpire, but he also went for 38 runs in his four-over spell. Mumbai Indians will hope Johnson takes on the wider role of leading the attack and makes an impression against McCullum & Co early on.
Twenty-three-year-old James Neesham doesn't yet have the stats to make him a sought after player in the T20 market, but his all-round abilities are sure to invite attention. He picked up two wickets in the first qualifier against Faisalabad Wolves, but then shone with two impressive outings with the bat in the next two matches. Against Kandurata Maroons, he formed a useful alliance with ten Doeschate at a stage where the Sri Lankan side was on the ascendency and stayed unbeaten till the end. Against Sunrisers Hyderabad, he was keen to take the legspinners on, lofting them for a couple of huge hits easily. Neesham's big test will start in the main draw.
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