Big, big win for Pune, who posted 179-4 to beat Sunrisers, who made 176-3. Warner made 43 before he was bowled by Unadkat, Williamson was trapped in front by Christian for 21, Tahir had Dhawan caught by Tripathi for 30, leaving Henriques unbeaten on 55 alongside Hooda, not out on 19, before Dhoni fired a 34-ball 61 to help clean up some of the mess he himself created. Dhoni's slow start of 26 off 23 balls had converted an equation of 90 off 55 into 47 off 18, but he took out Kumar with 35 runs off his last 11 balls to seal the win. Sunrisers were coming in with just two defeats in 12 having made 175+. They struggled without Nehra and Mustafizur, though, with costly drops: Tripathi was put down on 17, Tiwary was given a lifeline. Dhawan/Warner went slow yet again, crawling to 55-1 off 8 overs, and Sunrisers, the best side in the middle overs this year, managed only 68 runs between the sixth and the 15th to be reduced to 113 for 2.
This was the 15th time Dhoni has remained not out in a successful chase, scoring 35 off the final 11 balls he faced, taking his SR from 113 to 179. He got 20 of his 61 runs to long-on and 17 behind square on the off-side. His performance was even more remarkable given the fact he has been out of form, and Pune needed him, especially after the dismissal of Tripathi, then the highest scorer of the innings, and Stokes. An equation that was once a manageable 90 off 10 overs turned into a much stiffer 47 off three. He treated Kumar - the best bowler in the competition - with disdain, and brought the equation down to 30 off two overs. Before Saturday, Dhoni had scored 61 off 73 balls in five innings this season and only once did his strike-rate nudge over run-a-ball. Today, Dhoni's first 23 balls had fetched 26. By smashing 35 off the next 11 deliveries, his season strike rate jumped from 87.14 to 117.30. B Kumar has conceded 99 runs off 78 deliveries in the final five overs this season. Dhoni smashed 20% of those runs in one single over on Saturday.
Tomorrow is Gujarat vs KXIP, in a battle of eighth vs sixth. Lions lost to RCB and MI but beat KKR, giving them confidence and a morale boost. Kings XI Punjab began their season with back-to-back wins, and have lost four on the bounce since. Morgan and David Miller were dropped for that game. Manan Vohra too was absent, due to illness, and if he has recovered he could take back his role as opener and Shaun Marsh could be pushed to No. 3. Marsh has scored only 15 off 27 balls against Praveen Kumar but Lions have only taken 20 wickets in six games - the fewest of all teams this season. To put that in perspective, Bhuvneshwar Kumar has taken 16 wickets all by himself.
KXIP have taken 26, and they may deploy Patel in the Powerplay. He has a healthy record against all of Gujarat's overseas players in the IPL. Axar has dismissed B-Mac twice, conceding 35 runs off 36 balls, he has dismissed Smith once, giving away 11 off 12 balls and, though he hasn't dismissed Aaron Finch, he has kept him to only 10 runs off eight balls. McCullum has a strike rate of 200 against Ishant Sharma in the IPL, scoring 74 off 37 balls. Mohit Sharma, meanwhile, has dismissed McCullum twice in seven balls. Lions have the worst economy rate in the Powerplay (10.05) and middle overs (9.38) in IPL 2017. On the other hand, Kings XI have the worst economy rate (12.40) in the last five overs.
It's also KKR vs RCB, with ABDV and Badree likely to be fit. If that is the case, and Royal Challengers look at picking both overseas players, Travis Head and Shane Watson could make way for them. Last time out, KKR opened their attack with spin - Sunil Narine and Shakib Al Hasan. If Gayle plays, that plan may be used again. Narine has one of the best economy rates against Gayle among spinners (4.39) in T20s, and has dismissed him four times - twice in the IPL. KKR will also be mindful of Royal Challengers' struggles in the Powerplay, especially against spin. In the Powerplay this season, RCB have scored the fewest runs among all teams: 239 at a run rate of 6.83. Against spin in Powerplays, they have scored at a rate of 4.33, the slowest, compared to 7.33 against pace.
Gayle's form is ominous for KKR. At Eden Gardens, Gayle has scored 471 runs in nine innings, his second-best tally at a ground during the IPL and since his switch to the Royal Challengers franchise in 2011, Gayle's scores at Eden Gardens have been: 102*, 86, 6, 96 and 49, all batting second. KKR struggle in the Powerplay, with three wickets at an economy rate of 9.11. Their bowlers have been the strongest during the middle overs (7-15th), taking 22 wickets, the most, at an economy rate of 7.68. RCB's economy rate of 8.67 in the middle overs is, by contrast, the second poorest among teams this season, and they have taken 12 wickets in that phase. Their bowlers have been most effective in the Powerplay with 10 wickets at an economy rate of 8.25. A lot will rest on Pandey, who has hit 11 sixes in the tournament, already his personal best in an IPL season. 236 of his 245 runs in the tournament so far have come outside of the Powerplay overs, the most by a batsman this season. His contribution to Knight Riders' tally outside of the Powerplay stands at 35.54%.