Chennai Super Kings and Kings XI Punjab have both recovered well after indifferent starts to the tournament and the outcome of their clash will yet again have a significant impact on what has become an intensely fluid points table
Chennai Super Kings and Kings XI Punjab have both recovered well after indifferent starts to the tournament and the outcome of their clash will yet again have a significant impact on what has become an intensely fluid points table. Chennai, though, have fewer worries.
Chennai, by way of three consecutive wins, have jumped to second spot but will be keen to consolidate their position against a team they are facing for the first time this season. Each of those wins have come after batting first, with their bowlers stepping up to successfully defend competitive scores. Two players have stood out: Suresh Raina has been consistent with scores of 98, 32 and 32 in his last three appearances, and the left-arm spinner Shadab Jakati has proved a revelation spinning his team to victory with four-wicket hauls against Delhi Daredevils and Deccan Chargers. And with their new opening combination of M Vijay and Matthew Hayden coming good in their previous game, Chennai, as a result of their impressive run, have the edge going into Thursday.
Punjab suffered a big setback against Rajasthan Royals, and it was a timely disappointment, as their bowlers, who had been their main strength through the tournament, let them down at a crucial phase where the difference between teams in the points table is diminishing with every game. Yusuf Abdulla, the second-highest wicket taker in the competition, was carted around the park, Irfan Pathan went for ten an over, and Sreesanth made an inauspicious debut this season, bleeding too many runs at the death including 23 in an over. Given the equally worrying problems with their batting, especially at the top of the order, Punjab will be presumably down on confidence, but they'll know that a win in the upcoming game will propel them to the top three, above Chennai.
Form guide (completed matches, most recent first)
Chennai Super Kings: WWWLL
Apart from Raina and Jakati, Chennai's form has also been boosted by important contributions from their captain MS Dhoni, who made a quickfire 58 against Deccan, and impressive spells from Muttiah Muralitharan, Albie Morkel, L Balaji, and Sudeep Tyagi, who has been economical in each of the last three games.
Kings XI Punjab: LWLWW
Punjab appeared to have tackled the problems with their top-order by inducting Sunny Sohal, but his first-ball dismissal against Rajasthan meant the woes had resurfaced. Karan Goel was given another go, after being left out against Kolkata Knight Riders, but he squandered that opportunity. Yuvraj Singh made the mistake of coming too low down the order, and needs to push himself up, especially after having scored a half-century in his first stint as opener this season.
Watch out for
Chennai's batsmen against pace: Pace has been Punjab's main bowling weapon, and though they'll be demoralised by the treatment they received at the hands of Rajasthan's batsmen, they haven't yet been exposed to Hayden, Vijay and Raina. Regaining their confidence against a formidable batting line-up will be a challenge and makes for compelling viewing.
Sreesanth was included in place of Vikramjeet Malik, and ended up with miserable figures. However, he started well, and damaged his stats in the penultimate over of Rajasthan's innings. He could be given another go, but the prospects for Goel's selection don't look encouraging. He threw away his wicket, playing a mindless waft, and Punjab may look to Sahil Kukreja or Ravikant Shukla to fill in. Simon Katich has had three games, but Luke Pomersbach has had none. His impressive strike rate of 144.77 may just merit a look-in.
Chennai could retain the same team which won them their previous two games. Parthiv Patel was replaced by M Vijay as opener, and he and Hayden have added 36 and 61 for the first wicket in quick time in the last two matches. Given the team's strong line-up, and a balanced bowling attack, it is unlikely there'll be any tinkering.
Chennai: (probable) 1 M Vijay, 2 Matthew Hayden, 3 MS Dhoni (capt/wk), 4 Suresh Raina, 5 Albie Morkel, 6 Jacob Oram, 7 S Badrinath, 8 Sudeep Tyagi, 9 Shadab Jakati, 10 L Balaji, 11 Muttiah Muralitharan.
Stats and trivia
Chennai's 92-run win against Royal Challengers Bangalore is the biggest in terms of runs this season.
Punjab conceded 211 against Rajasthan, the highest score in the IPL this season.
For Punjab, the opening wicket averages 27.13. They've had five openers in all, namely Goel, Sohal, Kumar Sangakkara, Ravi Bopara and Yuvraj.
Chennai were the victors in all their games against Punjab last season. The first of those games was a high-scoring one, with both teams surpassing 200, but it was a merciless 116 from Michael Hussey that helped Chennai home by 33 runs. The second game was more competitive, but an inspired spell by L Balaji, who took 5 for 24, shut Punjab out by 18 runs.
The semi-final between the two teams was one-sided, with Raina and Parthiv Patel striking half-centuries to hand Chennai a nine-wicket win.