Qualifier 1, Mumbai Indians v Rising Pune Supergiant
Mumbai, May 16, 2017
Start time 2000 local (1430 GMT)
Overall: The teams have met four times, with Rising Pune winning three matches and losing one.
This season: Rising Pune have done the double against Mumbai this season, winning by seven wickets at home thanks to breezy fifties from Ajinkya Rahane and Steven Smith, and by three runs at the Wankhede, where Ben Stokes bowled a critical spell full of clever slower balls.
Rohit Sharma, Harbhajan Singh, Kieron Pollard, Ambati Rayudu, Lasith Malinga. Each of them has played in at least ten matches in the business end of the IPL - playoffs, semi-finals, finals. That is a whole lot of experience. All five have won two IPL titles each for Mumbai Indians, and all five could be part of their line-up on Tuesday.
Rising Pune Supergiant have never been involved in a playoff. One way or another, Tuesday will be either their second-last or third-last game as an IPL franchise. Barring MS Dhoni, who has been involved in 17 playoff and knockout games for Chennai Super Kings, their most experienced post-season player is Rajat Bhatia, who has played all of four such games, for Delhi Daredevils and Kolkata Knight Riders.
This is Twenty20 cricket, however, and it isn't clear how much of a difference all that experience - or lack thereof - will make. It could mean something, though. Particularly because Rising Pune will be playing at the Wankhede Stadium, and even more so because they will be without Ben Stokes and Imran Tahir, arguably their two most important players this season.
Both have left to join their international sides ahead of South Africa's ODI series in England, and while Adam Zampa is a roughly like-for-like replacement for Tahir - if not yet in experience and big-match know-how - the question of how to replace Stokes, who is genuinely two players in one, will preoccupy Rising Pune endlessly until the start of the Qualifier.
Regardless, Rising Pune's spectacular rise up the table - they won eight of their last 10 games - to finish the league stage in second place was down to the work of more than just two men, with Rahul Tripathi, Steven Smith, Daniel Christian, Washington Sundar and Jaydev Unadkat making particularly critical contributions.
Rising Pune, therefore, should retain most of their sense of self-worth, even without Stokes and Tahir. But Mumbai, who have no such worries apart from the loss of Jos Buttler, also to international duty, will start as clear favourites, on home turf, with most of their big names in excellent form.
The likely XIs
Mumbai Indians 1 Parthiv Patel (wk), 2 Lendl Simmons, 3 Rohit Sharma (capt), 4 Nitish Rana/Ambati Rayudu, 5 Kieron Pollard, 6 Krunal Pandya, 7 Hardik Pandya, 8 Harbhajan Singh, 9 Mitchell McClenaghan, 10 Lasith Malinga, 11 Jasprit Bumrah
Rising Pune Supergiant 1 Ajinkya Rahane, 2 Rahul Tripathi, 3 Steven Smith (capt), 4 Usman Khawaja/Mayank Agarwal/Rajat Bhatia, 5 MS Dhoni (wk), 6 Manoj Tiwary, 7 Daniel Christian, 8 Washington Sundar, 9 Shardul Thakur/Lockie Ferguson, 10 Jaydev Unadkat, 11 Adam Zampa.
Dhoni has not batted at No. 4 since April 26, but Rising Pune might want to consider playing him there against Mumbai. Dhoni has batted at No. 4 four times this season, and scored 119 runs at an average of 39.66 and a strike rate of 146.91. He has done far worse at Nos. 5 and 6, however, scoring 121 runs in nine innings at an average of 17.28 and a strike rate of 93.07.
He has excellent numbers in IPL playoffs and knockout matches, moreover, scoring 397 runs in 14 innings at an average of 44.11 and a strike rate of 139.78 - both are improvements on his overall IPL figures. He has done particularly well against Mumbai in playoffs and knockout games, scoring 154 runs in five innings at 51.33, with two half-centuries, and a strike rate of 163.82.
Stats that matter
Mumbai rested Nitish Rana for their last game against Kolkata Knight Riders, and the performance of Ambati Rayudu in that match may cause them to rethink bringing Rana back. Since scoring successive half-centuries against Gujarat Lions and Kings XI Punjab, Rana has only made 78 runs in six innings at an average of 13.00.
Rohit Sharma does not have a great record in IPL playoffs and knockout matches. In 12 innings for Deccan Chargers and Mumbai, he has scored 159 runs at 14.45 and a strike rate of 101.27, with only one half-century.
Among all the bowlers he has faced 20 or more balls against in the IPL, Rohit has scored quickest against Daniel Christian, taking 64 runs off him in just 28 balls at 13.71 per over, with four fours and six sixes, the most sixes he has hit off any bowler. He has also hit six sixes off Rajat Bhatia - another Pune bowler - and Morne Morkel.
Who will replace Stokes? Usman Khawaja is one option, but his record against spin may mitigate against his selection. In the IPL, he has only scored 36 off 31 balls against spin, while being dismissed three times. In those 31 balls, moreover, he has only hit one four and two sixes. Khawaja has done a lot better against pace - 91 off 69 balls with one dismissal, while hitting 13 fours and a six.
In the two league meetings between these two sides this season, Ajinkya Rahane scored 21 off nine balls against Mitchell McClenaghan, without being dismissed. In all, Rahane has achieved a strike rate of 156.67 against left-arm pace this season, while only managing 110.85 against all other bowlers. Rahul Tripathi, on the other hand, has scored at 125.64 against left-arm pace while rattling along at 155.50 against all other kinds of bowlers. It will be interesting to note how Mumbai use McClenaghan against these two openers.
Eight Mumbai batsmen have scored fifties this season, the most for any team. It's an indication of how their entire batting line-up has shared the responsibility of scoring runs, rather than one or two batsmen having big seasons. None of their batsmen has managed 400 runs yet, this season, but six of them - Kieron Pollard, Rana, Parthiv Patel, Rohit, Jos Buttler and Hardik Pandya - have scored 200 or more, with all of them managing strike rates in excess of 125.
Mumbai ending the league stage at the top of the table had a lot to do with the fact that both their batting and bowling have clicked this season. They have managed the biggest difference between batting run rate and bowling economy rate (0.60) of all teams this season, with Sunrisers Hyderabad (0.50) in second.
This match will pit the best slog-overs batting team of the tournament - Mumbai have a table-topping run rate of 10.45 in the last five overs - against arguably the best death-bowling team. Rising Pune's economy rate in the last five overs (9.41) across the tournament is not as good as that of Sunrisers and Mumbai, but they have been the best death-bowling side, by far, since they began their run of eight wins in ten matches. In that time, they have led the bowling teams by a distance, conceding only 8.03 per over, which is significantly better than the next-most economical team, Kings XI Punjab, who managed an economy rate of 9.19.