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Pune-Punjab lock horns

After clinching their thrilling opening tie against Mumbai Indians, a confident Rising Pune Supergiant (RPS) will be eyeing another win when they face Kings XI Punjab in the first double header weekend here on Saturday.

Pune-Punjab lock horns
Steve Smith


Pune skipper Steve Smith (84 not out off 54) notched up a pulsating seven wicket victory with a ball to spare in Pune in a match where almost everything went their way. The Pune team floundered in the last edition and they need to step up to make an impact in this edition. They have got off to a strong start. 

South African leg-spinner Imran Tahir, who was not picked in the auction and was called up by Pune to fill their squad due to an injury, proved his worth by claiming three wickets. He, fellow spinner Adam Zampa and gentle medium pacer Rajat Bhatia, made amends for the poor performances of Deepak Chahar, Ashoke Dinda and Ben Stokes. 

The pace bowling unit lacks experience, with fellow pacers Ishwar Pandey and Shardul Thakur also not boasting of proven track records. Stokes, the costliest player in this edition of IPL, has the experience and quality to deliver and Pune will rely on the Englishman a lot. 

Pune’s batting looks strong. Ajinkya Rahane (60 off 34) looked to be in ominous touch and at the top of the order, the right-handed batsman provides consistency and solidity. 

Stokes, Smith and Mahendra Singh Dhoni will also shoulder responsibility. Their opposition, Punjab, too had a tournament to forget last year and this year they will look to turn it around. They have overhauled their coaching staff and captain. New captain Glenn Maxwell has a big task at hand. Punjab’s pace bowling department also looks thin on experience. 

It comprises Mohit Sharma, Sandeep Sharma, Varun Aaron, Anureet Singh, Matt Henry and T. Natarajan, who was bought for Rs 3 crore at the auction. Medium pacer Darren Sammy is also there but Maxwell might find it hard to include him in most of the matches due to the rule of fielding a maximum four overseas players in the XI.

Fortunate to win, concedes Smith
Rising Pune Supergiant captain Steve Smith said that his side were fortunate to win their IPL match against Mumbai Indians in a last-over finish.
“It’s a nice place to bat at Pune. Fortunate to get over the line in the end,” Smith said after he hit two consecutive sixes under pressure to overhaul the target of 185 and win by seven wickets. “Form is form anywhere, I guess, so you got to make the most of it when you’re hitting the ball well,” said Smith who had hit a magnificent hundred while leading Australia to a Test win here during the recent series. Smith, who remained not out on a 54-ball 84, said he always knew that Mumbai would have to get an over from a spinner and they had to target him. “It was nice to hit a couple of sixes to win the game. It was one of those wickets where it was hard to find timing as soon as you come in,” said the Australian. Talking about his leg-spinner Imran Tahir who took three wickets to restrict Mumbai to 184 for 8, Smith said, “Tahir was magnificent, probably called him on a little bit earlier than I would have liked to. “Taking wickets through the middle overs was helpful and probably helped us in the end as well. Probably 180 was a par score on that wicket, pretty nice wicket with even bounce an

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