IPL's new franchises brace for spin test

Ravindra Jadeja’s experience at Rajkot could be an influential factor for Gujarat Lions © BCCI

Match facts

Thursday, April 14, 2016
Start time 2000 local (1430 GMT)

Big picture

Both new franchises had an easy start to their IPL lives but one team will suffer its first loss as Gujarat Lions face off against Rising Pune Supergiants in Rajkot.

On Monday, Aaron Finch and Dwayne Bravo used their wealth of T20 experience to consign Kings XI Punjab to their ninth loss in ten games. But it was Lions who lost the first phase of that game, conceding 87 runs in the first 10 overs before the bowlers pulled it back. Considering Supergiants’ powerful middle order, Suresh Raina and his men may not be able to stave off defeat if a similar performance repeats. Thursday’s match will Rajkot’s first in the IPL, and Lions’ first at home, which could be a decisive factor against an equally-matched opponent.

Supergiants seamers exploited an uncommonly helpful Wankhede pitch to effectively finish Mumbai Indians off by the midway stage. Rajkot’s spin-friendly nature will provide an entirely different script, but Supergiants have assembled a team suited to slow and low conditions. Their nine-wicket win on Saturday meant the middle order did not get any time in the middle, but in Steven Smith and MS Dhoni there is enough experience to help the team acclimatise quickly.

In the spotlight

Tomorrow may only be Ravindra Jadeja‘s second T20 at SCA stadium in Rajkot, but it is his home ground and that feelgood factor cannot be ignored. Overall, he has played 14 matches across formats at this venue, scored 1084 runs at an average of 83.38 and taken 48 wickets. On Monday, he elicited Kings XI’s slide with wickets off consecutive overs. His all-round abilities, along with Bravo and James Faulkner, improves the balance of the Lions outfit.

Despite having bowled five overs in his last three T20 matches, R Ashwin may be depended on to bail Dhoni out of another situation. With three left-handers in Lions’ top six, including captain Raina, Ashwin could be deployed in the middle to stall any change in momentum. Besides, the Rajkot pitch could be best suited to his style of bowling.

Team news

In a horses-for-courses approach, Lions could bring in legspinner Pravin Tambe or chinaman Shivil Kaushik for Pradeep Sangwan.

Gujarat Lions (probable): 1 Brendon McCullum , 2 Aaron Finch, 3 Suresh Raina (capt), 4 Dinesh Karthik (wk), 5 Dwayne Bravo, 6 Ishan Kishan, 7 Ravindra Jadeja, 8 James Faulkner, 9 Praveen Kumar, 10 Sarabjit Ladda, 11 Pravin Tambe

With Dhoni’s persistence on playing the same team, Supergiants are unlikely to tinker with their winning combination.

Rising Pune Supergiants (probable) 1 Ajinkya Rahane, 2 Faf du Plessis, 3 Kevin Pietersen, 4 Steven Smith, 5 MS Dhoni (capt & wk), 6 Mitchell Marsh, 7 Rajat Bhatia, 8 R Ashwin, 9 Ishant Sharma, 10 RP Singh, 11 M Ashwin

Pitch and conditions

With a crop of players from different backgrounds, both sides have the ability to be flexible. In Rajkot, they will have to adjust to sluggish conditions. Plenty of cutters and slower balls could be used. There is no chance of rain.

Stats and trivia

  • Since November 2015, Kevin Pietersen has scored 960 T20 runs at an average of 45.71, including seven fifties and two centuries.
  • Dhoni has been dismissed just once in his last 13 T20 innings.

Quotes

“I really appreciate the love from the fans, throughout India. Wherever I go, there is a big fan following. (We) play cricket to entertain the fans and perform for them.”
Dwayne Bravo is impressed by the support from the fans

Nikhil Kalro is a sub-editor at ESPNcricinfo

© ESPN Sports Media Ltd.


Source: ESPN Crickinfo

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