Eliminator: Power-packed MI up against LSG spin trio

CHENNAI: Here we are, after seven weeks of enthralling mid-table churn. Many would say that the league-stage jostle this season was the most intense ever. Mumbai Indians and Lucknow Super Giants typify that intensity.
Both teams have galloped and tumbled sinusoidally. Both were uncertain of a place in the playoffs going into their final league games. Both got in by the skin of their teeth. While LSG sealed the deal with the narrowest of margins against the Kolkata Knight Riders, MI had to bank on a Shubman Gill masterclass that stole Virat Kohli’s thunder and nudged Rohit Sharma’s men into the top four.

The topsy-turvy rides thus far would have battle-hardened both sides, and they would need to find calm in the chaos as they head into the Eliminator. LSG have the advantage of playing at a home strip somewhat similar to the one they will get here, and hold the edge in recent head-to-head encounters – they prevailed in the only match-up this season and twice last year – but all that could come to nought against MI’s power-packed batting line-up.
Skipper Rohit’s form was the only hurdle to Mumbai’s big-hitting juggernaut, and with him firing in the previous game, they will have the confidence to take on the Chepauk challenge. TOI explores some match-ups and aspects that could determine which way the match swings.


LSG vs MI IPL 2023 Eliminator: Lucknow bowlers have task cut out against Mumbai’s batting

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SKY vs spinners at Chepauk
After overcoming a slight blip, Suryakumar Yadav is back to being the T20 batter oppositions fear most on any given day. Length, line and stadium dimensions cease to matter when Surya is on song, for he can dismantle bowling attacks like nobody’s business. But Chepauk is a different kettle of fish. The dry surface invariably aids spinners, and often renders across-the-line slogs treacherous.
To add to that, LSG’s spin trio of Krunal Pandya, Ravi Bishnoi and Krishnappa Gowtham are proficient in stifling run-flow and are likely to relish the conditions here. In such a scenario, it will be fascinating to see the kind of approach that Surya adopts. Does he bite the bullet and wait for rank bad balls, or does he place the belief in his abilities over everything else?


Pooran-Stoinis threat
Like Surya, when Nicholas Pooran and Marcus Stoinis get going, there are very few T20 bowlers in the world who can stop them. Both batters can hit sixes almost at will, and can elevate a middling total to a formidable one with their pyrotechnics. MI’s bowling has looked vulnerable all season, and in the absence of proven yorker specialists like Jasprit Bumrah and Jofra Archer, has leaked runs at crucial stages.
Akash Madhwal has looked to shoulder that responsibility for the side and done reasonably well so far, but it remains to be seen whether he can replicate that success in a knockout game against the world-class duo of Pooran and Stoinis. He will need support from the other end, be it from all-rounder Cameron Green or veteran leggie Piyush Chawla.

The dew factor
The role of dew in day-night games at the MA Chidambaram Stadium has been unpredictable this season. While there was hardly any dew in the CSK-DC match on May 10, just four days later, the CSK-KKR encounter seemed to be heavily influenced by that, with the losing captain MS Dhoni saying that his side needed 180 runs to defend, but “there was no way” they could have got there in the first innings given the state of the pitch.

Given the importance of spin here and considering how hard it gets for spinners to grip the ball when dew takes over, the ability to assess the conditions quickly and act accordingly will be paramount. In case there is a lot of dew, the toss becomes vital too, and whoever wins it would prefer bowling first.

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Watch IPL 2023: Confident MI take on plucky LSG in Eliminator

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