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Preview: As the Indian Premier League (IPL) enters its middle phase, Gujarat Lions will aim to accelerate from here as they face a comfortable looking Mumbai Indians at the Saurashtra Cricket Association Stadium in Rajkot on Saturday evening.
Gujarat, who have six points from eight matches, are improving day by day as out of the three matches, they have won two. Their last win was a seven-wicket thrashing of Royal Challengers Bangalore (RCB). What would have pleased the Rajkot franchise is the way the bowlers dismissed a power-packed batting line-up of Bangalore for 134 on Thursday.
Gujarat Lions captain Suresh raina (L) and Mumbai Indians captain Rohit Sharma
Australian medium pacer Andrew Tye has been their leading light. With 12 scalps, he is the second highest wicket-taker of this edition so far. Along with him, youngsters Basil Thampi and Nathu Singh are improving, keeping veteran Praveen Kumar on the bench.
"Nathu Singh has been bowling extremely well in the last two games and Basil Thampi too has been a consistent wicket-taking bowler in first class cricket. Credit also goes to Ankit Soni, who has joined the team recently and performed well under pressure," captain Suresh Raina said after the win in Bengaluru.
A lot will depend on the performances of all-rounders Ravindra Jadeja and James Faulkner. It would also be interesting to see if Irfan Pathan, who was roped in as a replacement for injured all-rounder Dwayne Bravo, would be included.
It will be important for the Suresh Raina-led team to hit some kind of momentum that will help them move up the ladder.
Their next encounter is against second-placed Mumbai, who saw their six-match winning run came to an end with a three-run loss to Rising Pune Supergiant on Monday.
Mumbai will know that out of the two opponents they have lost to in the eight matches played so far, Gujarat are one of them and the visitors will be keen to get back to winning ways.
Their batsmen have been contributing. Nitish Rana (266 runs), Jos Buttler (230), Parthiv Patel (169) have been consistent, along with all-rounders Kieran Pollard (199 runs), Hardik Pandya and Krunal Pandya. Rohit Sharma has shown signs of returning to form with two crucial knocks.
Mumbai's bowling line-up boasts the likes of Mitchell Johnson, Jasprit Bumrah, Mitchell McClenaghan, Hardik, Harbhajan Singh and Pollard.
It should be an interesting contest when these bowlers will be up against Gujarat's destructive batsmen Dwayne Smith, Brendon McCullum, Raina, Aaron Finch and Dinesh Karthik.
"We have a lot of match-winners in our team, starting from McCullum, Dwayne Smith, Ishan Kishan, Dinesh Karthik, Jadeja, Finch and myself. We have that balance in our team and today was a result of that combination that we have been searching for," Raina felt.