This fixture of the Indian Premier League is expected to be a scintillating affair for many reasons. The biggest of them is going to be Ravichandran Ashwin, who is a well-known disciple of MS Dhoni. But, this time, he will lead Kings XI Punjab against Dhoni’s Chennai Super Kings at Chandigarh.
In fact, Ashwin will return to face a lot of his old teammates. The offspinner was a crucial component of the star-spangled Chennai side before it was defunct. However, he has been handed the responsibilities of the Kings XI side, and truth be told, his side has not yet shined to the best of their potential.
Punjab started their campaign on a winning note against Delhi Daredevils. Thanks to KL Rahul and Karun Nair, they defeated Gautam Gambhir and co comfortably. But, in the next match, Umesh Yadav’s pace proved to be too much for them, and Royal Challengers Bangalore got a well-deserved victory against Kings XI. It will be a litmus test for the home side on Sunday, as another defeat against the unbeaten Chennai side will bring them down the table and might well provide a hard blow to the confidence of the players.
Chennai Super Kings, on the other hand, snatched two thrilling wins from two matches. Both times, they chased high totals and managed to get three points with one ball to spare. In the season opener, it was Mumbai Indians who were defending 165 and reduced Chennai to 118/8 in 17th over. While everyone expected three points for Rohit Sharma’s boys, a quick onslaught (68 from 30 balls) from Dwayne Bravo took Chennai to victory.
Next game was a similar outing as well. Chasing 202 against Kolkata Knight Riders, Chennai were reeling at 101-3 during 12th over. This time, Sam Billings stepped up and scored a quickfire 56 from 23 to ensure second consecutive win for the returning IPL side. It goes without saying that the Super Kings are looking formidable with their lineup, but their bowling has shown weakness and that’s where Kings XI need to capitalize.
Kings XI’s middle order has struggled so far, and they might feel the need to revamp their lineup. Both Mayank Agarwal and Yuvraj Singh have failed to put any impact and Manoj Tiwary might get a nod ahead of them. Another possibility is to bring in David Miller and drop Marcus Stoinis for an Indian bowling option. But, since it is only third match of the tournament, Ashwin can also choose to stick to the eleven for one more game.
The visitors, on the contrary, have more serious concerns. After Kedar Jadhav, Suresh Raina has picked up an injury and will miss the next couple of matches. This might open the door for Murali Vijay who missed the season opener due to injury. That will push Ambati Rayudu down the batting order. On the other hand, Faf Du Plessis may also return from an injury spell and if he returns, Imrah Tahir will probably get the axe. All in all, Dhoni will have a hard time to choose his best eleven.
Kings XI Punjab: KL Rahul (Wk), Aaron Finch, Karun Nair, Yuvraj Singh, Manoj Tiwary, Marcus Stoinis, Axar Patel, Ravichandran Ashwin (C), Andrew Tye, Mohit Sharma, Mujeeb Ur Rahman.
Chennai Super Kings: Murali Vijay, Shane Watson, Ambati Rayudu, Sam Billings, MS Dhoni (C & Wk), Dwayne Bravo, Ravindra Jadeja, Deepak Chahar, Harbhajan Singh, Shardul Thakur, Imran Tahir.
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