Having started well this season, Pune Warriors suffered a string of losses and slipped quickly from the third position in the table to third from the bottom. Though they haven’t toyed much with their team composition, the Warriors must still be mulling over the right batting and bowling combinations to kick-start a recovery. They have a chance to seek redemption today against the team that beat them in the last match by 18 runs – the Deccan Chargers, on what is likely to be a dry pitch in Cuttack. The Chargers themselves were under the hammer losing their first five games and only managed to score their first points for the season with that win over Pune, but they need to keep winning to have any hopes of making it to the playoffs.
Michael Clarke is likely to join the Pune batting line-up today, and it will be interesting to see who he replaces. The Warriors batting has produced some consistent performances, but their strike rate has been a cause for concern at the top of the order. Robin Uthappa has been the highest run scorer for them, but his strike rate lingers at a par figure of 117.72. Steven Smith has been useful down the order, but hasn’t had many overs to work with, and may be pushed up the order, while Michael Clark may be asked to come at the top. Ganguly will have to decide what role he has to play in the order, with irregular performances and a par strike rate riding on his back, and may decide to shift himself to the middle order to counter the spinners.
Deccan’s prized players have failed to click at the same time, with only Steyn performing consistently from the season beginning. Duminy seems to have been under-utilized batting lower in the order and could be more useful coming in at number 4. Unimpressive performances from the domestic pool of bowlers may force the Chargers to get back to the drawing board to redesign their bowling ranks, but under pressure to win, the Chargers do not have many opportunities to experiment with their composition and must settle on a combination quickly.
Head to Head
Players to watch out for :
Having played on similar pitches in the West Indies, the Australian batsman may not take time getting used to the Indian wickets. With his ability to score swiftly and run quickly between the wickets, he could be handy in the top order. Michael Clarke could do for Pune what Shaun Marsh has done for Punjab and Sehwag, for Delhi.
Ganguly has tried to bat himself into a long stay at the crease, but has lost his wicket as soon as he has tried to break loose. He must realize that some other players may be more useful in the top order, while he could be utilized to navigate the spinners in the middle order and explode towards the end. Ganguly nonetheless continues to be an important player, having proved himself as a very handy bowler capable of stemming the flow of runs in the middle overs and a shrewd captain managing the bowlers well.
Duminy showed what he is capable of in his innings of 58 from 26 against Rajasthan earlier in the season, and has been wasted down the order. With his handy off-spin and sharp fielding, Duminy could be the match turner for Deccan.
Dale Steyn will be rejuvenated to be a part of a side that has finally won, and will be looking to extend his good stint with the ball. Steyn has taken top order wickets consistently and could cause trouble to the Indian players in the Pune batting line-up with his pace and bounce.
A recharged Dale Steyn against a confident Michal Clarke could cause some sparks in the middle today.
Prediction for the match
Deccan Chargers defeated Pune in their last match, but it was largely due to Cameron White’s timely contribution, and the team is still awaiting many of their Indian players to step up and perform. Pune has been erratic, but with a revitalized batting order with the addition of Michael Clarke and consistently impressive bowling from Alfonso Thomas and Ashish Nehra up front, Pune might just outlast a desperate Deccan.
Predicted winner: Pune Warriors.