An explosive contest is on the cards as defending champions Gujarat Titans (GT) and five-time title winners Mumbai Indians (MI) square off tonight in Qualifier 2 of the 2023 Indian Premier League (IPL) at the Narendra Modi Stadium in Ahmedabad.
Both teams are playing their second match each in the play-offs after the Titans, who topped the league stage table, lost to four-time champions Chennai Super Kings (CSK) (who were second in the table) in Qualifier 1 last Tuesday and MI (fourth in the table) beat Lucknow Super Giants (LSG) in the Eliminator on Wednesday.
According to the IPL playoffs format, the Qualifier 1 winners head straight into the final while the losing team still has a chance to go through as they then play the team that triumphs in the Eliminator which features the sides that finished third and fourth in the table.
With everything to play for and home advantage on their side, the Titans – who won the championship in their very first season in the IPL last year – will fancy their chances of being able to ace their second attempt to get into the final where CSK lie in wait.
Although their head-to-head record this season shows the scale balanced with both teams winning one game each, the Titans will look to their first game against MI this season to gain inspiration.
In that April 25 game at their home ground (the largest cricket stadium in the world, seating more than 132,000 people), the Titans bludgeoned 207 for six in their 20 overs before restricting MI to 152 for nine and winning by 55 runs.
With conditions suiting their seamers and the pitch appearing to aid their spinners as well, the Titans applied a squeeze on the MI batting line-up which never managed to break free from the shackles.
But, in the return fixture at the Wankhede Stadium in Mumbai on May 12, MI prevailed by 27 runs as they rattled up 218 for five off their allotted 20 overs before holding the Titans’ reply down to 191 for eight.
Captain Hardik Pandya will probably reference the first game in the team talk before the game and will hope that star batsman Shubman Gill, who currently lies second in the list of top-run scorers in the tournament, all-rounder Vijay Shanker and ‘finisher’ David Miller all come good in the batting department.
And he will probably hope that pacer Mohammed Shami and leg-spinning all-rounder Rashid Khan can continue with the fine wicket-taking form that ensured that they sit at the top of the list of bowlers with most wickets in this edition with 26 and 25 wickets, respectively.
MI, on the other hand, will be hoping that their resurgence in the tournament, after a slow start that saw them initially languishing in the lower half of the league table before finding the form that propelled them into the play-offs, will continue in this encounter.
Rohit Sharma, their captain, has had a relatively low-key season by his standards and MI fans will doubtless be hoping that he has saved his best for the big occasion.
But they also have the incredible Suryakumar Yadav, known to his legions of adoring admirers as simply ‘SKY’, the man with the 360-degree batting game. He already has a 49-ball century to his name in this year’s tournament and, could, if it is his night tonight, put on another memorable batting display.
In addition, they have the dynamo Ishan Kishan at the top of the order with Australian all-rounders Cameron Green and Tim David capable of match-turning fireworks in their batting line-up.
Their bowling department also looks sturdy with Australian Jason Behrendorff and Englishman Chris Jordan handling the pace attack and the experienced leg-spinner Piyush Chawla backing them up.
And, of course, they have a new match-winning option in Akash Madhwal, the skiddy medium-pacer who snapped up the incredible figures of 5/5 in their 81-run rout of LSG in the Eliminator.
With a capacity crowd expected at the stadium to cheer the Titans on, the atmosphere promises to be electric in Ahmedabad tonight.
Home advantage should, theoretically, give the Titans the upper hand. But MI have been in these high-pressure situations many times before and could draw on the experience they have gained over the past 15 years of playing in the IPL to muster up the win that will take them into Sunday’s final against CSK.