Dharamsala: Still in with an outside chance of making the play-offs, Kings XI Punjab will look for nothing less than a victory when they take on an out-of-reckoning Deccan Chargers in their crucial IPL match on Saturday.
Punjab are currently placed fifth in the team standings with 14 points from 13 games. But to qualify for the playoffs, the Adam Gilchrist-led side will have to first win their last league game and hope that some other results go in their favour. (Also Read: IPL sensation Valthaty wants to play his natural game)
Going into Saturday's encounter at the picturesque HPCA stadium, Punjab will be high on confidence having achieved four wins on the trot, against Mumbai Indians, Kochi Tuskers Kerala, Delhi Daredevils and Royal Challengers Bangalore.
Punjab would be looking to force a three-way battle with Mumbai Indians (16 points) and Kolkata Knight Riders (16 points) for the two available spots after Chennai Super Kings and Royal Challengers Bangalore went through.
The results of other matches will have a lot of bearing on the Preity Zinta-owned side's fortunes.
Punjab have battled their way up the table after losing five games on the trot before winning against Mumbai Indians on May 10. But they still have to beat Deccan in their final game to have any chance of making the last four.
Mumbai Indians will play Rajasthan Royals today and Kolkata will lock horns with Mumbai Indians on May 22 and the onus will be on Punjab to play party-poppers for these two teams by winning against Deccan and fancy their play-offs' chances.
Punjab would hope that Knight Riders lose their last league match against Mumbai Indians to force law of averages (run-rate). In all, Kings have a mathematical chance of just sneaking in.
Punjab can take heart from the fact that they had defeated the Hyderabad-based outfit comfortably by eight wickets on their home turf in their previous IPL outing.
Opener Paul Valthaty has been the find of the tournament while Gilchrist is also hitting form at the right time. In the bowling department, pacer Praveen Kumar and leg-spinner Piyush Chawla are combining well to shoulder the burden of batsmen.
On the other hand, out of contention for the play-offs, second edition's champions Deccan would aim to sign off on a positive note but that looks easier said than done as they face an unbeaten-at-home Punjab.
With captain Kumar Sangakkara off to join his Sri Lankan teammates on their ongoing tour of England, Cameron White will most likely take over as captain while Michael Lumb also has a chance of getting a game.
With the pressure off, Deccan have nothing to play for but one fact which would be worrying Gilchrist as the visitors are coming into this game with back-to-back victories over Mumbai and IPL debutants Pune Warriors.
Punjab are clear favourites to win their fifth game in a row after the way they demolished Royal Challengers Bangalore last time out.
There were 19 sixes struck here last time and it could be interesting to see what one of the most beautiful grounds in the world would offer with its miniscule boundaries.
Kings XI Punjab: Adam Gilchrist (capt), Dinesh Karthik, Abhishek Nayar, Praveen Kumar, Piyush Chawla, Bhargav Bhatt, Bipul Sharma, Love Ablish, Mandeep Singh, Nitin Saini, Paras Dogra, Paul Valthaty, Shalabh Srivastava, Siddharth Chitnis, Sunny Singh, Vikramjeet Malik, Amit Yadav, Shaun Marsh, David Hussey, Nathan Rimmongton, Ryan Harris, Ryan McLaren, David Miller.
Deccan Chargers: Shikhar Dhawan, Bharat Chipli, Jean-Paul Duminy, Dan Christian, D Ravi Teja, Harmeet Singh, Dale Steyn, Ishant Sharma, Pragyan Ojha, Amit Mishra, Sunny Sohal, Cameron White, Rusty Theron, Manpreet Ghony, Ishant Jaggi, Michael Lumb, Ankit Sharma, Anand Rajan, Akash Bhandari, Chris Lynn, Ishan Malhotra, Jaydev Shah, Arjun Yadav, Ashish Reddy.
Story first published on: Friday, 20 May 2011 13:36 IST