Kings XI Punjab face the uphill task of not only pulling the rug from under the feet of formidable Chennai Super Kings but also boosting their net run-rate in the last IPL round-robin match on Sunday to salvage hopes of sneaking into the play-offs.
They started the season with a string of victories before going off the boil. Currently placed seventh with 12 points, they still have a slender chance of making it to the play-offs.
Mumbai Indians, Rajasthan Royals and Royal Challengers Bangalore are also on 12 points with one match to go, but Punjab have the advantage of knowing exactly what they need to do to make a last-ditch effort and steal a berth.
It’s been a story of individual brilliance for Punjab, who failed to click as a team.
Only KL Rahul (652 runs) has scored runs in a heap while none of the other batsmen played to their potential.
Kings XI were agonisingly close to beating Mumbai Indians in their last outing before a last-minute slip saw the defending champions seal the contest by three runs in the last over.
Chris Gayle played some superb knocks early in the tournament but was inconsistent after that. Among others, Aaron Finch, Karun Nair, Marcus Stonis, Mayank Agarwal and Yuvraj Singh all have failed to score runs when it mattered.
Among the bowlers, only Andrew Tye (24 wickets) has delivered along with injured rookie Afghan leggie Mujeeb Ur Rahman. If they have do the improbable, Ravichandran Ashwin's side need a better showing from their bowlers and batsmen alike in the last league game.
Chennai Super Kings, on the other hand, have already qualified for the play-off but are eager for a top-two finish.
Handed a reality check by out-of-reckoning Delhi Daredevils on Friday night, Chennai will be looking to plug the gaps before they take on Punjab.
The Mahendra Singh Dhoni-led side is placed second with 16 points. The 34-run defeat to bottom-placed Daredevils exposed the weaknesses of the two-time champions.
Ambati Rayadu (585 runs) has been brilliant throughout the season and delivered wherever asked to bat as opener or at number 4.
He and experienced Australian campaigner Shane Watson (438 runs) will have to give the Southern outfit a solid start.
The tournament has seen some vintage innings from Dhoni (430 runs), who reminded his critics that he is not past his prime. His role will be crucial in on Sunday at their adopted home venue – the Maharashtra Cricket Association Stadium.
Others, like Suresh Raina who failed with the bat on Friday night, West Indian Dwayne Bravo and Ravindra Jadeja will also need to chip in.
The return of pacer Deepak Chahar from injury has bolstered their bowling attack, which will also depend on Shardul Thakur and the experienced spin duo of Harbhajan Singh and Jadeja to stop in-form Rahul and Gayle from taking the game away.
Kings XI Punjab: Ravichandran Ashwin (captain), Chris Gayle, Aaron Finch, KL Rahul, 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), 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.
Match starts: 2000 IST