Kings XI Punjab (KXIP) face the herculean task of stopping a star-studded Chennai Super Kings to seal a play-off berth when the two sides face-off in their last Indian Premier League (IPL) league game at the Maharashtra Cricket Association Stadium here on Sunday.
Apart from Punjab, Royal Challengers Bangalore (RCB), Rajasthan Royals (RR) and Mumbai Indians (MI) also share 12 points each and with a sole match remaining for them, any of the four could make to the final four.
With the race for the play-offs becoming an interesting scenario, Punjab will have to register a win with a huge margin as their net run-rate reads a poor -0.490.
The Ravichandran Ashwin-led side kicked-off the 2018 season on a decent note, winning five of their first six games but faultered in the business end of the league.
Barring opener KL Rahul, who has 652 runs from 13 innings, Punjab have failed to click as a unit.
Chris Gayle, the self-proclaimed ‘Universe Boss’, came out with some impressive knocks in the first half of the season but failed to maintain his form.
Aaron Finch, Karun Nair, Marcus Stonis, Mayank Agarwal and Yuvraj Singh have failed to score so far.
In the bowling department, Andrew Tye has single-handedly led the pace attack with 24 wickets from 13 games and is currently the leading wicket taker in the league.
Teenaged Afghan spinner Mujeeb ur Rahman (14 wickets) has also been impressive while pacer Ankit Rajpoot (eight wickets), off-spinner Ravichandran Ashwin (six wickets) and medium-pacer Mohit Sharma (six wickets) need to raise the bar against Chennai.
On the other hand, having already qualified for the play-offs, Chennai will be eager to finish the league stage at th top spot.
The Mahendra Singh Dhoni-led side were handed a 34-run defeat by Delhi Daredevils in their last game on Friday.
For Chennai, Ambati Rayadu has been brilliant so far, delivering on most occasions. He has been amongst the runs nd has received good support from his partner Shane Watson.
Playing 13 innings, Rayudu has 585 runs while the Australian all-rounder has gathered 438 runs.
Skipper Dhoni (430 runs), has once again silenced his critics while Suresh Raina, who failed with the bat against Delhi, Dwayne Bravo and Ravindra Jadeja will also need to come good with the bat on Sunday.
Deepak Chahar is back from injury which has also bolstered the yellow brigade’s pace attack.
Shardul Thakur, Lungi Ngidi have also emerged with breakthroughs whenever the side needed. However, Bravo needs to learn from his last game, where he was hammered for 26 runs in the final over.
Come this Sunday, it could be an another edge of the seat match for fans as both the sides will be hungry for a victory in the last league game of the season.
Kings XI Punjab: Ravichandran Ashwin (captain), Chris Gayle, Aaron Finch, Lokesh Rahul (wicketkeeper), Karun Nair, Mohit Sharma, Mujeeb ur Rahman, Barinder Sran, David Miller, Andrew Tye, Ankit Rajpoot, Axar Patel, Akshdeep Nath, Mayank Agarwal, Manoj Tiwary, Yuvraj Singh, Marcus Stoinis, Mayank Dagar.
Chennai Super Kings: Mahendra Singh Dhoni (captain/wicketkeeper), Suresh Raina, Ravindra Jadeja, Faf Du Plessis, Harbhajan Singh, Dwayne Bravo, Shane Watson, Ambati Rayadu, Deepak Chahar, K M Asif, Kanish Seth, Lungi Ngidi, Dhruv Shorey, Murali Vijay, Sam Billings, Mark Wood, Kshtiz Sharma, Monu Kumar, Chaitanya Bishnoi, Imran Tahir, Karn Sharma, Shardul Thakur, N. Jagadeesan, David Willy.