Indore: 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 another match of the 2017 Indian Premier League's (IPL) first double header weekend here on Saturday.
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.
The middle overs bowling will see left-arm spinner Axar Patel in action. Captain Maxwell is also an option as a slow bowler. They hope the young crop of bowlers will deliver.
In the batting department, a lot will depend on Maxwell and David Miller, while wicket-keeper Wriddhiman Saha will also look to continue to impress.