The second qualifier between Kings XI Punjab and Chennai Super Kings will reveal who will challenge Kolkata Knight Riders in the IPL 7 final. Both sides have been rather consistent throughout the event except for a couple of hiccups here and there. But, as the sides meet for the third time this year, Punjab will be under greater pressure of the two sides, although they have beaten Chennai in the earlier two matches. This is because they have never made an IPL final before. Chennai, on the other hand, are experts at making it to the summit clash, and will go into the do-or-die clash on a winning note unlike Punjab, who went down to Kolkata.
The only way Punjab can challenge Chennai in the qualifier is if their big-hitting batsmen rise to the occasion on Friday. The biggest worry for Punjab as they head into the clash against Chennai is the fact that their main batsmen have lost form as the tournament has approached the business end of the event. Glenn Maxwell, who played some unbelievable knocks in the first half of the tournament, had slipped in the last few matches. Against KKR in particular, he has been completely off-boil.
Maxwell can take heart from the fact that he played two sensational knocks in both of Punjab’s earlier matches against Chennai. In fact, they scored 200 plus in both these clashes, with Maxwell missing his tons by a whisker on both occasions. While, on one hand, he has failed to pick Sunil Narine, he has been equally severe on Ravichandran Ashwin. The Chennai offie has bowled a negative line to Maxwell, but still hasn’t been able to stop the exceptionally talented batsman. The tussle between the two could once again go a long way in deciding the fate of the match. Ashwin is a big match player, and would be keen to seek revenge.
Among the other swashbuckling batsmen in the team who need to fire are David Miller and skipper George Bailey. At various stages in the event, both have played match-winning knocks. Like Maxwell, Miller too has hit a lean patch in recent times. His performance could be significant on the big day against Chennai. Miller’s temperament will also come to the fore in the do-or-die clash. As for Bailey, he must ensure that he faces as many deliveries as possible. After the two Ms, he is after all the most destructive batsman in the side, and would look to lead from the front one more time.
Bowling is without doubt Punjab’s weaker suit. Although Sandeep Sharma is among the top wicket-takers in the event, he has been benched for the last few games following a loss in form. It remains to be seen whether Punjab will bring him back for the key match, hoping he can swing the ball with deadly effect. Mitchell Johnson will also need to bring all his experience into play and stand up. The fourth and fifth bowlers are definitely Punjab’s Achilles heel, which is why it could all come down to how Maxwell and co perform.
--By A Cricket Analyst