Both Punjab and Mumbai will be looking to return to winning ways in the 2021 Indian T20 League when they square off at the MA Chidambaram Stadium in Chennai on Friday, April 23.

Punjab are currently languishing at the bottom of the standings having lost their past three matches after winning the opener, while Mumbai have lost two out of their four games so far and are in the top-four.

Neither franchise will want to lose this contest as they look to avoid conceding further ground to their playoff rivals, but Punjab will be more desperate for a win that will snap their three-match losing run.

Punjab vs Mumbai probable playing XI

KL Rahul became the second fastest player to cross 5000 T20 runs in his last outing and he along with Chris Gayle, Deepak Hooda and Mayank Agarwal – all of whom have shone sporadically so far – will be expected to step up and get some runs against Mumbai. Nicholas Pooran could miss out on making the playing XI having been dismissed for three ducks in his four innings this season. On the bowling front, Arshdeep Singh has been the pick of Punjab’s bowlers but needs some more support from seniors like Mohammed Shami and the international bowlers Jhye Richardson and Riley Meredith.

Mumbai, on the other hand, will be hoping that their superstars like Rohit Sharma, Ishan Kishan, Hardik Pandya, Quinton de Kock and Kieron Pollard find top gear. Only Suryakumar Yadav has managed to score a fifty for the reigning champions this season and that’s something which they’ll be eager to change at the earliest with Chris Lynn eagerly waiting for an opportunity having made an explosive 49 in his only match this season. Mumbai’s bowlers have had better starts to the season though with Rahul Chahar topping their wicket-taking chart with eight scalps, closely followed by Trent Boult and Jasprit Bumrah with six and four wickets respectively.

Punjab predicted XI: KL Rahul (captain/wicket-keeper), Mayank Agarwal, Chris Gayle, Deepak Hooda, Shahrukh Khan, Moises Henriques, Chris Jordan, Jhye Richardson, Murugan Ashwin, Mohammed Shami, Arshdeep Singh

Mumbai predicted XI: Quinton de Kock (wicket-keeper), Rohit Sharma (captain), Suryakumar Yadav, Ishan Kishan, Hardik Pandya, Kieron Pollard, Krunal Pandya, Rahul Chahar, Jayant Yadav, Jasprit Bumrah, Trent Boult

Punjab vs Mumbai prediction: Who will win?

The head-to-head between the teams suggests that Mumbai are likely to have a slight edge over Punjab. The defending champions have won 15 matches and Punjab have triumphed 11 times when these two sides have squared off in the past. The five-time Indian T20 League champions have also won three of the last five fixtures between the teams and head into Friday’s contest with slightly better form, making them likelier to be favourites for the clash.

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Top Tip: Best Batsmen

After a quiet outing last time around, expect Rahul to be among the runs once again. He’s the leading scorer for Punjab at the moment and has enjoyed himself against Mumbai in the past. He scored 580 runs in 12 innings at an average of 64.44 against them and even hit a century at their expense in 2019.

Mumbai’s biggest batting threat, meanwhile, will be their skipper Rohit. Despite having an underwhelming start to the campaign, Rohit has hit six fifties against them and notched 669 runs versus Punjab in past matches.

Top Tip: Best Bowlers

Even though Mohammed Shami hasn’t enjoyed the best of seasons so far on his return from an injury, the Indian pacer is only going to get better as the tournament wears on. He has picked nine wickets in eight innings against Mumbai and averages 26.78 against the opposition.

For Mumbai, Bumrah will have fond memories of past games against Punjab and will be looking to add to his four scalps in the 2021 Indian T20 League. He’s notched 17 wickets in 12 innings against Punjab and is certain to pose a massive threat to their batsmen.

Top Tip: All-rounder and Wicket-keeper

Both sides have quality all-rounders capable of stealing the show on their day. However, Pollard will undoubtedly be the standout player to keep an eye on when it comes delivering with bat and ball. He’s scored 498 runs against Punjab in the past, notching three fifties along the way. His average of 38.3 and strike rate of 164.9 further indicates the damage that Pollard can inflict.

As far as wicket-keepers go, Rahul is the only choice to go with. The Punjab skipper is in better form than de Kock and is likely to come hard at Mumbai’s bowlers as he looks to make amends for a quiet outing in their last game. Apart from Rahul’s century that’s been mentioned above, he’s smashed four fifties against them and is tipped to at the very least hit his 200th six – which he’s one shy off – in T20s come Friday.

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Featured photo: AFP / Sajjad Hussain