Defending champions Mumbai Indians have lost all three games since IPL 14 resumed but Matt Harris expects Rohit Sharma's men to respond positively against Punjab
"it’s easy to see where the defending champions need to improve if they are to overcome Punjab on Tuesday."
Mumbai Indians v Punjab Kings
Tuesday September 28, 15:00 BST
Live on Sky Sports Cricket
Mumbai on the slide
Notorious for making slow starts to the tournament, Mumbai Indians were handily placed in the payoffs when IPL 14 was paused back in May. Since the tournament was switched to the UAE, the most successful team in the history of the competition have now lost three games on the bounce.
Skipper Rohit Sharma put the blame for Mumbai's latest defeat, a 54-run loss to RCB, firmly at the feet of the batsmen and that's a simple conclusion to draw. After a 57-run opening stand between the captain and Quinton De Kock, no other player reached double figures as the batting unit collapsed.
Rohit must take some of the responsibility following poor shot selection but it's easy to see where the defending champions need to improve if they are to overcome Punjab on Tuesday.
Kings close the gap
Punjab Kings are one of four teams on eight points at this stage and, with a gap of four points to Bangalore in third place, there may be just one remaining playoff slot up for grabs. KL Rahul's men eliminated Sunrisers at the weekend but, while they've remained in postseason contention, Kings have not exactly been convincing across IPL 14.
Supporters will be pleased to see other batsmen, besides the skipper, making contributions with the bat. Mayank Agarwal and Aiden Markram have top scored in the last two matches and South Africa's Markram could be a useful late addition to the squad.
Arshdeep Singh's five-wicket haul kept Punjab in touch during their narrow defeat to Rajasthan and, with Rahul still contributing, Kings may just be the smart bet for that final playoff slot.
Slow scoring at Sheikh Zayed
Four IPL 14 games at the Sheikh Zayed Cricket Stadium in Abu Dhabi have produced first innings scores of 92, 155, 154 and 171 respectively. Things may be improving but this has been a slow scoring surface and three of those targets have been successfully chased down.
This should be a day where the toss is pivotal and whichever skipper wins will look to insert the opposition. An average first innings score of 143 should improve but I expect that Tuesday's encounter will follow a similar pattern to the previous four matches here.
Despite that losing run, Mumbai Indians are clear favourites for the points and you can claim Rohit Sharma's men at 1.674/6. Things have looked more positive for Punjab in recent matches and many will see some value in Kings' win odds of 2.285/4.
The issue for Mumbai is that middle order and the pressure that the openers - Rohit and De Kock - are now under. Those are key wickets and, if both men are removed early, Punjab could be home.
The toss may also be vital but I'm backing Mumbai to respond. Somewhere in that middle order, there should be a big contribution from Kieron Pollard, Ishan Kishan, Suryakumar Yadav or either of the Pandya brothers.
While those middle order batters do need to step up, I'm looking to Quinton De Kock to provide Mumbai's major contribution with the bat. The wicket keeper / batsman has looked in good touch and is the type of player who maintains his form once he's found it.
QDK is likely to start at 3.02/1 or possibly higher while Rohit Sharma will be shorter at around 2.757/4. Other possibilities include Ishan Kishan at 4.03/1, while Kieron Pollard and Hardik Pandya will be tempting outside selections at 9.08/1 or possibly higher.
I've already gone for two shorter prices with my picks but I do feel that Captain KL Rahul is pivotal to Punjab's chances in this game. He may not have top scored in either match since the restart but has made decent scores as he remains in contention for the Orange Cap.
Rahul will be short, possibly around 2.757/4 in Punjab's top batsman market so I won't make it the recommended bet but I'd be very surprised if he doesn't make a big contribution on Thursday.
Matt Harris' IPL P/L
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