Gujarat Lions will take on Rising Pune Supergiants in what will be the second match for both sides in the competition, at Rajkot. Both sides go into the match having won their respective IPL debut matches. While Pune thrashed defending champions Mumbai in the IPL opener, Gujarat got the better of Kings XI Punjab in their first match. There will be a strange feeling among some members of both sides since they played together for Chennai Super Kings not long ago. The names include opposition skippers MS Dhoni and Suresh Raina, Ravichandran Ashwin, Ravindra Jadeja and Dwayne Bravo.
Pune put up an excellent bowling effort against Mumbai, which was chiefly responsible for their victory. They will be keen to continue in the same vein. RP Singh's India days may be long over, but he remains a force at the IPL level. His success in the first match would please the team. Then, there is also Mitchell Marsh, who is capable of picking up big wickets, and bowled well against Mumbai. There has been some talk about friction between Ravichandran Ashwin and Dhoni, after the former made a veiled reference at his skipper not giving him enough overs. It would be interesting to observe how Dhoni uses him against the Lions.
Pune really did not have much to do with the bat after the bowlers restricted Mumbai to a below par score. Still, the team would have been pleased to see Ajinkya Rahane succeed at the top of the order. Rahane's T20 spot has been questioned by Dhoni recently so he has some answering to do. Faf du Plessis and Kevin Pietersen also did well to get some runs under their belt. However, Pune will also like the others to get a hit out in the middle. This includes of likes of skipper Dhoni himself, Australian skipper Steven Smith, Mitchell Marsh and the hard-hitting Thisara Perera among others.
While Pune got the better of Mumbai rather comprehensively, Gujarat had to fight harder for their victory against Kings XI Punjab. As a result significant contributions came from a number of players, which is actually good for the team in the longer run. Aaron Finch was absolutely brilliant for the Lions at the top of the order, and ensured that a challenging target was gunned down without much trouble. Ishan Kishan showed some good gumption, and while Brendon McCullum fell early, Dinesh Karthik provided some good support to Finch in the chase.
Gujarat's bowling was also highly impressive. They were led by the experienced Dwayne Bravo, who kept picking up wickets, and ensured Punjab did not finish with an imposing target. They will find the job tougher against a strong Pune batting line-up though. In fact, both their batting and bowling will be tested against a quality side.
-- By A Cricket Analyst