Kings XI Punjab have reached a point of no return. With only five wins in 12 matches, they will take the field against Sunrisers Hyderabad at the Punjab Cricket Association Stadium on Saturday (May 11) knowing another loss would signal the end of their hopes of qualifying for the Indian Premier League playoffs.
Punjab have relied on David Miller to bail them out very often this season, and would want the other batsmen to step up and deliver. Shaun Marsh and Adam Gilchrist, who made a comeback in the previous game after missing three matches, have shown signs of good form. But the inability of the other middle-order batsmen to cash in on good starts has left the team management worried.
"There is no doubt we want them to fire in unison, we're under pressure and it's now or never," said Darren Lehmann, the Punjab coach. "Most times if you've observed, we've done 80 percent of the things right only to let it slip away from there"
The new ball pair of Praveen Kumar and Parvinder Awana have shouldered a bulk of the responsibility, while Piyush Chawla has played his part. But the death bowling has been a concern and the team management has tried every possible combination in Azhar Mahmood, Michael Neser and Manpreet Gony, who've all conceded plenty.
"Change is something one always looks for when results are not going your way. But really with just four games to go, you can't do much when you've explored all options, we'll see how it goes," said Lehmann.
Hyderabad, meanwhile, are slightly better placed in the points table with seven wins in 12 matches. But they've just won two away matches, a far cry to four wins from five home matches. That however hasn't played on their minds according to VVS Laxman, the team mentor.
"In Chennai, Dhoni played a fantastic knock. In Bangalore it was Virat's brilliant knock, in Jaipur it was Watson's brilliant knock. Otherwise we were in control of the game and more often than not one guy has taken the game away," he explained. "Overall I'm happy with the away performance, except for maybe the game against Kolkata where we lost it completely."
Given the match will be played on a new surface, the bowling attack boasting of Ishant Sharma and Dale Steyn would relish the prospect of bowling in Mohali, a track that has occasionally suited swing and seam bowling. Ishant conceded 66 off 4 overs in the previous game against Chennai Super Kings but Laxman firmly defended his former team mate.
"(Michael) Hussey and (Suresh) Raina are probably in the best form of their life. We just want to forget about what happened there and move on. Ashish Reddy has been ruled out due to a fractured finger and depending on the wicket, we'll choose a replacement," he said.
With the bat, Parthiv Patel's return to form has somewhat taken the pressure off Shikhar Dhawan at the top, but Kumar Sangakkara is in the middle of a spell in which he has scored just 118 runs in 9 innings and put a lot of pressure on the likes of Thisara Perera and Darren Sammy, lower down the order.
Punjab would want to give a parting gift to Mohali fans before setting off to Dharamsala for their last two home games. Hyderabad, who cruised home by five wickets when the sides last met on April 19, would want to complete the double.