Pune: The Rising Pune Supergiants, on a high after winning their last game against Sunrisers Hyderabad, will have a mountain to climb as they face an in-form Gujarat Lions in the Indian Premier League (IPL) on Friday.
Mahendra Singh Dhoni's Pune have had a difficult start to the season, bagging only two games out of six. They started their campaign with a win over defending champions Mumbai Indians in the tournament opener, but then lost four back-to-back games before winning against Hyderabad via the Duckworth-Lewis system.
On the other hand, the Lions have lost just one game out of the six they have played so far. In their last match against Delhi Daredevils, they survived a scare and got over the line with only a run to spare.
The last time these two sides met, Gujarat had come out on top and this time ideally Dhoni would want revenge.
One of the reasons behind the visitors' success has been their batting top-order, which has fired on all cylinders from the word go. Aaron Finch, Brendon McCullum and Suresh Raina have ensured brisk starts so far in the league but Finch's fitness is a cause of concern for the Rajkot-based franchise. Dwayne Smith, who came in as a replacement for the Australian against the Daredevils, scored an impressive 30-ball 52 and knit a 112-run partnership with McCullum in just 10.4 overs.
Speedster Dhawal Kulkarni and West Indies all-rounder Dwayne Bravo have been the pick of the bowlers for the Lions and have been ably supported by tweakers Pravin Tambe and Ravindra Jadeja, who have bagged five and four wickets, respectively.
For Pune, opener Faf du Plessis and Ajinkya Rahane have done the bulk of the scoring, but the likes of Steve Smith and Dhoni need to step up if they are to post a huge score or hunt down one. Especially with du Plessis being ruled out of the tournament with a broken finger. Pacer Ashok Dinda, who pocketed three wickets in the match against Hyderabad, would also need to put in a similar performance and he would look towards the likes of Thisara Perera and Murugan Ashwin for support.