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    IPL 5: Beleaguered Punjab face Mumbai hurdle

    Tendulkar, who suffered a finger injury early in the tournament, is expected to return to the Mumbai team.

    Tendulkar, who suffered a finger injury early in the tournament, is expected to return to the Mumbai team.

    Four defeats from six games and worse could follow for Kings XI Punjab (KXIP) when they take on the mighty Mumbai Indians (MI), who are expected to include Sachin Tendulkar in their scheme of things and multiply the woes of a Punjab outfit that is fast running out of options, including that of opening with Adam Gilchrist, to put together a winning XI.

    Tendulkar, who has been out of action since Mumbai’s opening fixture against Chennai Super Kings because of a finger injury, will in all probability be part of their playing XI at the Wankhede Stadium on Sunday. While KXIP will go into the contest having lost their last two games, MI will have to watch out for the rustiness factor as the debacle against Delhi Daredevils, when they were shot out for 92, was suffered almost a week ago. Clearly it's not the ideal setting for either of the two teams.

    Punjab would be telling themselves that even though they were beaten by Royal Challengers Bangalore in their previous outing, it was not altogether a hopeless exercise. In the absence of their skipper Gilchrist, who was benched because of a hamstring injury, the move of bringing in Azhar Mehmood into the side turned out to be an instant success. The former Pakistani allrounder smacked 33 off 14 balls, to take KXIP to 163 for 6. Even though Mehmood was not nearly as impressive with the ball, conceding 30 runs in his 3.3 overs, medium pacer Parvinder Awana provided KXIP a great chance to win by reducing Bangalore to 25 for 3 in the sixth over.

    But very little can be achieved by the opposing team once Chris Gayle decides that it's going to be his day, and that is exactly what happened as the powerful Jamaican blasted four sixes and eight fours on his way to 87 off 56 deliveries, before Awana sent him back to complete his four-wicket haul. However, the damage had already been done and RCB settled the issue with three balls to spare, registering a five-wicket win.

    Mumbai, who have three victories from five games and are placed sixth on the points table, will be looking for stellar performances from their big names and expect Tendulkar to address their opening woes since his 69-run stand with Richard Levi in the tournament opener. Mumbai have tried Ambati Rayudu and T Suman to partner Levi in Tendulkar's absence but none of them have succeeded.

    As far as Kings XI Punjab are concerned, they surely have the numbers on their side when it comes to head to head against Mumbai. Of the eight matches against Mumbai, Punjab have finished on top on five occasions, a record which none of the other teams can boast of. But for that piece of stat to have a bearing on this clash, KXIP will have to play out of their skins when the two teams battle it out on Sunday.

    Probable XIs:

    Mumbai Indians: 1 Richard Levi, 2 Sachin Tendulkar, 3 Rohit Sharma, 4 Ambati Rayudu (wk), 5 Kieron Pollard, 6 James Franklin, 7 Harbhajan Singh (capt), 8 Clint McKay, 9 RP Singh, 10 Pragyan Ojha, 11 Munaf Patel

    Kings XI Punjab: 1 Nitin Saini (wk), 2 Paul Valthaty, 3 Shaun Marsh, 4 David Hussey (capt), 5 Mandeep Singh, 6 Azhar Mehmood, 7 Ryan Harris, 8 Piyush Chawla, 9 Parvinder Awana, 10 Praveen Kumar, 11 Harmeet Singh