IPL 2018: Kings XI Punjab hopes for miracle in clash vs Chennai Super Kings
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IPL 2018: Kings XI Punjab hopes for miracle in clash vs Chennai Super Kings

Kings XI Punjab will need to win their final IPL 2018 league game against Chennai Super Kings to qualify for the playoffs.

cricket Updated: May 19, 2018 20:13 IST
Devarchit Varma
Devarchit Varma
Hindustan Times, Pune
IPL 2018,Kings XI Punjab,Chennai Super Kings
Kings XI Punjab will take on Chennai Super Kings at the Mahrashtra Cricket Association Stadium in Pune on Sunday.(AFP)

With odds stacked against them in the race for IPL playoffs, a struggling Kings XI Punjab take on Chennai Super Kings in the final league match on Sunday at Pune. Placed third at one stage, KXIP have slipped to the second-last position on the points table, accelerated by defeats in the last four games.

With 12 points from 13 matches and a net run rate of -0.490, KXIP need nothing less than a miracle to make it to the final four. The R Ashwin-led side needs to win by a huge margin and hope Mumbai Indians, Royal Challengers Bangalore and Kolkata Knight Riders lose their respective matches over this weekend.

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“I don’t think it really matters whether you come fifth or eighth. The idea is to get into the playoffs. You are either in or you are out…we will evaluate tomorrow whether we have had a successful season or not,” said KXIP head coach Brad Hodge.

For KXIP, a lot will depend on their opening pair of KL Rahul and Chris Gayle, and Purple Cap holder Andrew Tye would once again be expected to deliver the goods. However, it is the middle order that is of concern.

Some surprising decisions like sending Axar Patel ahead of Yuvraj Singh and Manoj Tiwary while chasing a stiff target against Mumbai Indians in the previous game, or sending Ashwin at No 3, have backfired.

The contest on Sunday does provide KXIP to conjure up an inspirational performance. But the Maharashtra Cricket Association Stadium — CSK’s adopted home ground — has proved to be a lucky venue for the Dhoni-led team.

Chennai have won four out of five matches at Pune ever since they moved their base here, and one of their famous wins this season includes the eight-wicket hammering of table-toppers Sunrisers Hyderabad last weekend, in which Ambati Rayudu notched up his maiden IPL hundred.

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CSK, who have qualified for the playoffs, will look to fire on all cylinders knowing they need a win to finish in the top two. An additional motivation for CSK will be the fact that teams finishing second in the playoffs race have won the IPL five times so far, with the Dhoni-led team setting the tone in 2011 by defeating Bangalore.

The current form of Rayudu, Shane Watson, Dhoni and even Suresh Raina is assuring for CSK, but their bowling is a concern. Dwayne Bravo was punished for 26 runs in the final over against Delhi, which proved to be decisive.

Yuvraj will be in focus on Sunday with the player going through one of the worst phases in IPL history. With the highest score of 20 in eight matches so far, Yuvraj has scored 65 runs in the entire tournament, and has also gone wicketless on two occasions he rolled his arm over.

First Published: May 19, 2018 20:13 IST