New Delhi: Aiming to complete a hat-trick of titles, the formidable Mumbai Indians will face an imposing challenge from the Rising Pune Supergiant in what promises to be a riveting 'Grand Finale' of the 10th edition of the Indian Premier League at the Rajiv Gandhi International Stadium in Hyderabad.
Pune have already beaten Mumbai three times this year and Smith's men will once again feel confident in this championship clash. Cricketnext takes a look at the key battles which might decide the match.
1. Ajinkya Rahane vs Lasith Malinga
Ajinkya Rahane hasn't hit top form in the league according to his own high standards, but the right-hander has still managed to score 338 runs in 15 matches. This says it all about the class of the Indian star. Rahane will once again be crucial at the top for RPS in their bid for their maiden title. However, the batting maestro will first have to deal with the pace of Laisth Malinga early on.
The Sri Lankan speedster has picked up 11 wickets in 11 matches and has been providing crucial breakthroughs to Mumbai throughout the season. Over the years, these two have come up against each other many a times and the result has been very competitive to say the least. While Rahane has failed to hit Malinga for runs (41 runs of 42 balls ; 20 dots), the pacer hasn't been able to dismiss the Pune star even once.
2. Steven Smith vs Jasprit Bumrah
What happens when an unstoppable force meets and immovable object? Guess we will find that tonight when Pune skipper Steven Smith will be up against Mumbai yorker-master Jasprit Bumrah. Smith has led his side from the front in the tournament and is the leading run-scorer for RPS by some distance. Smith has hit 421 runs in 14 innings, which also includes two half-centuries.
Meanwhile, Bumrah has been in spectacular form himself and has scalped 18 wickets in 15 matches for MI. The young pacer has been particularly brilliant in the death overs which was highlighted in the super over he bowled against Gujarat Lions in a group phase match.
Smith has face 12 deliveries from Bumrah in the past and the Aussie could only score 114 runs. While Bumrah has also dismissed Smith once in previous encounters.
3. MS Dhoni vs Karn Sharma
Cometh the hour, cometh the man! The stage is perfectly set for Mahendra Singh Dhoni to win his third IPL title and first with Pune. Dhoni has already stuck a scintillating knock (26-ball 40* vs MI in Qualifier 1) to help Pune enter the final, and few would bet against him for doing so again in the final.
Mumbai spinner Karn Sharma has really come into his own recently and it was his heroics in the Qualifier 2 that guided MI into the final. Overall, Karn has picked 13 wickets in just 8 matches.
These two have come up against each other quite a few times in the past and the result has been pretty close. Out of the 26 balls that Dhoni has faced against Karn, the right-hander has hit 36 runs. While Karn has also bowled 13 dot balls to Dhoni in previous matches.
4. Rohit Sharma vs Jaydev Unadkat
Mumbai skipper Rohit Sharma has failed to lit up the league with his batting but the right-hander has still managed to slam three half-centuries in the tournament. In 16 matches, Rohit has hit 309 runs and what better place to improve the record that in the final against the bogey team.
But Rohit have to deal with Pune's in-form young pacer Jaydev Unadkat who has been a revelation this season. In 11 matches, Unadkat has picked up 22 wickets and is only 4 wickets behind Bhuvneshwar Kumar in the Purple Cap list.
Rohit and Unadkat have locked horns in the past multiple times in the cash-rich league. Rohit has faced 19 deliveries against Unadkat before and has bludgeoned 36 runs. But Unadkat has also dismissed Rohit twice before and that will definitely play in the mind of the Mumbai skipper.
5. Parthiv Patel vs Shardul Thakur
With 391 runs in 15 matches, Parthiv Patel is Mumbai's leading run-getter in the tournament so far. The southpaw has slammed two half-centuries too and has been crucial in giving good starts to the two-time champions this year. But Parthiv will have his work cut-out against Pune's young pacer Shardul Thakur.
Shardul has picked up 11 wickets in as many matches for RPS and has formed a dangerous pace attack with Unadkat. Over the years, Shardul and Parthiv have crossed path many a times in the league.
Shardul has kept Parthiv quiet in previous encounters as off his 21 deliveries, the southpaw has only scored 28 runs. Shardul has also bowled 9 dot balls for Parthiv in the past.