The final match of the initial stage of the tournament is upon us, and it might still influence the table. The Chennai Super Kings take on the Kings XI Punjab in a bid to retain the second on the table after KKR won yesterday against the Sunrisers.
A win by the Kings with a substantial margin may see CSK demoted from their second position, which will then be occupied by KKR owing to a possibly greater net run rate. A CSK victory could see them end the season on the top of the table, which would be inconsequential, but a definite morale booster ahead of the semis. Can KXIP ruin things for CSK, or will Chennai race to the top of the table?
Kings XI Punjab
Axar Patel, Ravichandran Ashwin (c), Yuvraj Singh, Karun Nair, Lokesh Rahul, Chris Gayle, David Miller, Aaron Finch, Marcus Stoinis, Mayank Agarwal, Ankit Rajpoot, Manoj Tiwary, Mohit Sharma, Mujeeb Ur Rahman, Barinder Sran, Andrew Tye, Akshdeep Nath, Ben Dwarshuis, Pardeep Sahu, Mayank Dagar, Manzoor Dar.
Chennai Super Kings
MS Dhoni (c), Suresh Raina, Ravindra Jadeja, Faf du Plessis, Harbhajan Singh, Dwayne Bravo, Shane Watson, Ambati Rayudu, Deepak Chahar, KM Asif, Kanishk Seth, Lungi Ngidi, Dhruv Shorey, Murali Vijay, Sam Billings, Mark Wood, Kshitiz Sharma, Monu Kumar, Chaitanya Bishnoi, Imran Tahir, Karn Sharma, Shardul Thakur, N Jagadeesan, David Willey.
Where the teams stand
Kings XI Punjab
The Kings need to do a lot of thinking regarding how they managed to find themselves in this position. Cruising at the early half of the tournament, they find themselves close to elimination should they fail to win by a big margin. The one week long break that the team received after the half-way mark has so disrupted their rhythm, and the results are indicative of it. The batting has simply failed to get going despite receiving several chances, and KL Rahul has been left to do all the work in every single game. Aaron Finch showed some encouraging signs in the last couple of games, but with Gayle running out of steam at the top, KXIP are back to relying on two batsmen for their batting fortunes, a dangerous proposition against a team like Chennai.
A large part of Punjab’s batting failure also has to do with some inept captaincy from Ashwin. Sending Axar ahead of Yuvraj and Manoj is simply foolish, and Ashwin has done it far too many times this season, sending Axar before Stoinis too on some occasions. Besides the batting, Mujeeb’s injury has been a huge bane for the team. The bowling has been expensive as it is, and his absence has further hindered the Punjabi cause. Andrew Tye remains the leading wicket taker by a comfortable margin, but he cannot be the only one performing in the bowling department, especially with the batting CSK possess.
Fantasy Picks: Tye, KL Rahul, Finch, and Gayle are the obvious picks from Punjab. Ashwin has been fairly consistent as well, while Stoinis is a dangerous batsman who can pick up a few wickets as well.
Chennai Super Kings
Chennai have been caught napping a few times when it comes to their bowling. They have lost some close games throughout the season due to the failures of their attack, and it is one hole they will desperately want to fix before the playoff stages. The brilliance of a couple of bowlers is always overshadowed by the mediocrity of others, a frustrating problem for the CSK management to solve. Their batting has been superb, but they misread the pitch in the last game and paid heavily for it. They have one last game before the margin for error becomes nil, and they must capitalise on it with an all-round performances.
CSK have a great chance to cement the top spot against a team that has been hapless at best in their last seven games. They will be pleased by the way their batting has generally performed. Rayudu in particular is in red hot form, while Dhoni is a lethal threat lower down the order. Billings has been an absolute waste of a foreigners spot since his match-winning knock against KKR, and Dhoni’s persistence with him is appalling. CSK need to be playing their best eleven in every game, and that they have not yet settled on one is a problem they cannot ignore for long. Against Punjab, it will be imperative for them to fix the gaps in their lineup, regardless of the result.
Fantasy Picks: Jadeja, Dhoni, and Rayudu are the top picks from CSK. Deepak Chahar and Raina have also looked promising, while Watson’s all-round abilities make him a suitable pick as well.
CSK win. Punjab’s rudderless campaign keeps going downhill, and a recovery against CSK looks unlikely.
Can the Kings XI Punjab pull off a surprise win, or will the Chennai Super Kings enter the next phase of the tournament with a win? Let us know in the comments and poll below.
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