Kings XI Punjab, with just six points from eight games, face a tough task in their bid to get their Indian Premier League (IPL) campaign back on track as they take on the powerful Chennai Super Kings here Saturday.
The visitors' chances will also hinge on the availability of their skipper Adam Gilchrist who is nursing a hamstring injury.
Punjab's fortunes have swung from one extreme to the other and Gilchrist's forced absence has not helped their cause unlike the reigning champions Super Kings, who after a slow start have been on pace with a tally of nine points.
If the Kings XI have suffered in their continuing search for an effective and balanced combination, the Chennai outfit boasts of an embarrassment of riches to an extent that they barely felt the absence of key all-rounder Albie Morkel, who flew home last week for a couple of days.
Further, the Super Kings have enjoyed a fair run at Chepauk where they scored a famous win against arch-rivals Royal Challengers Bangalore earlier this month while successfully chasing down a 200-plus target.
Despite a make-shift opening combination of Subramaniam Badrinath and in-form Francois du Plessis, the Super Kings' batting strength has never been seriously questioned this season except in two games where they were bundled out for 112 (vs Mumbai Indians) and 110 (vs Delhi Daredevils).
It is the Super Kings' bowling that has caused some concern in their camp with spearhead Doug Bollinger still to find his form.
The Australian fast bowler, whose best spell was in the opening game when he injured Sachin Tendulkar with a short-pitched delivery, has just eight wickets and is the side's leading wicket-taker ahead of left-arm spinner Ravindra Jadeja (7).
In fact, the Super Kings rested Bollinger for the return game in Bangalore with Morkel replacing him. The match, however, was abandoned due to rains with each team picking up a point.
As for Punjab, they have found an unexpected hero in seamer Parvinder Awana who played major roles in some of their victories and is the side's top wicket-taker with a haul of nine from just four matches. He would be the bowler to watch on the morrow.
Punjab would also be looking up to two Aussies David Hussey and Shaun Marsh, who have figured prominently in their victories so far with their big-hitting ability. If the two sustain the form, they can influence the outcome.
On the face of it, the Super Kings appear firm favourites, but this season has shown that reputation counts for nothing but the form on the day does. The only certainty ahead of the game is that the Super Kings will enjoy the obvious advantages of playing at home and hence, the visitors need to be on top of their game if they hope to snatch a win.
Chennai Super Kings: Mahendra Singh Dhoni (Capt), Srikkanth Anirudha, Ravichandran Ashwin, Subramaniam Badrinath, George Bailey, Doug Bollinger, Dwayne Bravo, Faf du Plessis, Ben Hilfenhaus, Michael Hussey, Ravindra Jadeja, Shadab Jakati, Joginder Sharma, Suraj Randiv, Nuwan Kulasekara, Yo Mahesh, Albie Morkel, Suresh Raina, Wriddhiman Saha, Scott Styris, Sudeep Tyagi, Kuthethurshri Vasudevadas, Ganapathi Vignesh, Murali Vijay.
Kings XI Punjab: Adam Gilchrist (Capt), Abhishek Nayar, Nitin Saini, Paul Valthaty, Bhargav Bhatt, Bipul Sharma, Harmeet Singh, Mandeep Singh, Gurkeerat Singh Mann, Amit Yadav, Paras Dogra, Parwinder Awana, Piyush Chawla, Praveen Kumar, R Satish, Ramesh Powar, Shalabh Srivastava, Sidharth Chitnis, Sunny Singh, Vikramjit Singh Malik, Azhar Mahmood, David Hussey, David Miller, Dmitri Mascarenhas, James Faulkner, Shaun Marsh, N Rimmington.
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