Match factsFriday, April 16
Start time 20.00 (1430 GMT)
Big PictureThe IPL welcomes its newest venue, Dharamsala, nestled in the Himalayas, in the closing stages of its third season. It is classified as a 'home ground' for Kings XI Punjab, and fans will have to travel up north to Himachal Pradesh to witness the biggest game of its kind in the home of the Dalai Lama. The match is of little consequence to Punjab, who are all but out of the tournament, but crucial to Deccan Chargers, who are still afloat in the closest semi-final battle the IPL has seen so far.
Mumbai are already in the semis, but only five of the remaining seven teams have realistic chances of joining them there. Deccan have 12 points from as many games, and will ideally like to win both their games to stand a good chance of qualifying, since they have a poor net run rate (-0.438). After a hard-fought win against Chennai, Delhi have snuck ahead of the pack to join Bangalore on 14 points. Chennai and Rajasthan are also on 12 points, but Deccan, despite being behind both on net run-rate, have an extra game in hand. If Deccan win only one of their last two games, they can still go through, but that will depend on how the other teams perform. If Delhi win their final game (16 points), while Chennai and Rajasthan lose their remaining games (both on 12), and if Kolkata lose to Mumbai, then Deccan will go through. A victory tomorrow against the weakest team in the tournament will give them some peace of mind before their final game.
Though Punjab are right at the bottom, with eight points and two games to play, they're still in the race, technically. If they win their last two, they will end on 12 points and may be lucky enough to battle for the final slot on net run rate. But for that to happen, they will have to rely on Deccan, Chennai and Rajasthan losing their remaining games, and Kolkata losing to Mumbai, which is an unrealistic scenario. A backdoor entry isn't the best way to sneak through. Punjab will continue playing for pride, as they have done for a while now - they have won three of their last four games.
Form guide (most recent first)Kings XI Punjab WWLWL
Deccan Chargers WWWLL
Team talkIn hindsight, Brett Lee needn't have shown up at all. He arrived in India after recovering from an elbow injury, failed to take a wicket in four games, and is now heading back home after suffering a hairline fracture to his thumb. Punjab may have to replace one of their foreign players from the XI, with the West Indian Adrian Barath in doubt with a stomach ailment. In that case, Ravi Bopara may get a recall.
Previously…Punjab 4 Deccan 1
Deccan finally broke their jinx against Punjab the last time they met in this edition, in Cuttack. After posting 170, they ought to have won it comfortably having reduced Punjab to 104 for 7. Irfan Pathan's fireworks gave Deccan a scare but they eventually won by 6 runs.
In the spotlight
Herschelle Gibbs hasn't performed consistently enough for Deccan in this tournament. In nine games, he has managed only one fifty in 249 runs, at an average of 27.66. He had his ups and downs last year as well but played the most valuable knock in the final, where he was the top scorer among both teams. Will he turn out to be the big-game player again?
The Dharamsala pitch has never been tested yet in this tournament, so both teams are basically venturing into the unknown. It will be interesting to see what the captain chooses to do after winning the toss. Inserting the opposition will be the most natural thing to do, but the North Zone players in both should be able to give a fair insight as to what to expect from the surface. The ground has regularly hosted first-class games so some of the players will have a fair idea of the conditions. The venue is considered the most picturesque in India, with snow-capped hills in the backdrop - a pleasant change from other grounds.
Prime numbers and trivia
- Kings XI is the only team whose fast bowlers have leaked more than 9 runs per over. They concede 9.12 runs per over (Rajasthan are next at 8.99). Punjab's fast bowlers average 35.72 runs per wkt, which is the worst in the tournament
- Among fast bowlers who've bowled more than 75 balls, only three have an economy rate of more than 10, and two are from Punjab - Brett Lee (10.27) and Sreesanth (10.05).
- The HPCA Stadium will be hosting its first ever Twenty20 match tomorrow.
- South Africa A and Sialkot are the only visiting teams to have played here. The Pakistanis were scheduled to play a tour game here in 2005 but the match was abandoned due to poor weather.
The chatter"Our players are peaking at the right time in the tournament. Every player of the team is contributing in team's good performance."
Adam Gilchrist, is happy with his side's strong recovery.
"He hopes that the injury will not threaten his chances for the World Twenty20. I hope not as we know he is a world-class performer and we would like him to be back fit soon."
Kumar Sangakkara, wishes Brett Lee the best.
Kanishkaa Balachandran is a sub-editor at Cricinfo