Sports News

Mumbai back in the hunt, Delhi eye IPL breakthrough

(Reuters) - Mumbai Indians are in familiar territory as the Indian Premier League moves into the playoffs but the defending champions know they will have to take their game to another level when they face Delhi Capitals on Thursday.

Mumbai, the tournament’s most successful team with four titles, became the first side to reach the playoffs last week and used Tuesday’s game against Sunrisers Hyderabad to test the strength of their bench.

It did not work out well, a 10-wicket thrashing coming as a wake-up call ahead of the Delhi tie.

“Playoffs will be a different ball game,” Mumbai captain Rohit Sharma said after Tuesday’s loss.

“We’ve been in the playoffs many a times before and we do understand the pressure of being in the playoffs.

“We were not good with the bat today, certainly we can’t afford to do that in the playoff. We need to be smart, in terms of our shot selection.”

Delhi, led by the tournament’s youngest captain in 25-year-old Shreyas Iyer, will be hoping it is third time lucky against Mumbai having lost both their group matches to them last month.

Coached by Australian great Ricky Ponting, Delhi’s strong top order is complemented by a potent bowling unit headlined by the season’s leading wicket-taker -- Kagiso Rabada.

The winners of Thursday’s match will move straight into the Nov. 10 final in Dubai but all is not lost for the losers.

They will meet the team that comes through Friday’s eliminator between Royal Challengers Bangalore and 2016 champions Hyderabad to decide the second finalist.

Bangalore, led by India captain Virat Kohli, will have to win three successive matches to capture a first IPL title, something they have not been able to do this season.

Traditionally a batting-heavy side who have South African great AB de Villiers in their ranks, Bangalore have strengthened their bowling but have lost their last three matches to teams who made the playoffs.

In Hyderabad they have an opponent who showed in 2016 what it takes to win three knockout matches in a row en route to the title.

“There is great resilience in the side,” Hyderabad captain David Warner said after Tuesday’s victory against Mumbai.

“We looked back to 2016 when we had to win every game to win the title. When you have your backs against the wall, you have nothing to lose.”

Editing by Peter Rutherford