Chennai: Struggling for form but showing some spark at the same time, Kings XI Punjab will have to brace up for another massive challenge when they take on former champions and table-toppers Chennai Super Kings in their IPL match on Thursday.
Punjab ended just four runs shy of what could have been a morale-lifting win over the Mumbai Indians in their most recent match.
They showed the stomach for a fight but just did not get that one crucial knock from any of their batsmen which could have take them to a win.
Chennai, on the other hand, don't seem to be doing anything wrong in what has been a smooth campaign so far. Leaders by quite a distance on the points table after eight wins from 10 matches, they are the team to beat this IPL.
Chennai have won their last six matches, with opener Michael Hussey in sublime form.
Even though he was not among the top run-getters in their game against the Pune Warriors last night, Hussey had smashed a stroke-filled 95 against title holders Kolkata Knight Riders in the match before that. The Australian is the second highest run scorer in the series with 450 in nine games.
Skipper Mahendra Singh Dhoni too has been in ominous form with the bat, which will be a cause of concern for Punjab, while all-rounder Ravindra Jadeja has always proved to be a handy finisher.
West Indian all-rounder Dwayne Bravo is the highest wicket-taker for Chennai with 16 scalps to his credit but the Trinidadian has struggled with the bat in the tournament.
Chennai have dropped the under-performing Murali Vijay and Wriddhiman Saha is likely to continue as the opener.
On the bowling front there is some concern as South African all-rounder Albie Morkel has picked up just one wicket in his four games.
But young Indian medium pacer Mohit Sharma has done reasonably well, scalping nine wickets in seven matches at an average of 14.6.
In contrast, Punjab are coming into the game after being outsmarted by Mumbai. An unlikely victory over CSK would increase their points tally to 10.
The visitors' under-performing captain Adam Gilchrist dropped himself from the team in the previous match.
The wicket-keeper batsman failed to provide the flying starts which he was known for in his heydays and a tally of 94 runs in eight games hurt his side's chances badly.
Mandeep Singh, who has the ability to clear the ropes with nonchalance and has scored 228 runs in nine matches, is now partnering another Australian, Shaun Marsh, in the opening slots.
With another experienced Aussie campaigner, David Hussey (199 runs in nine matches), also not among the runs, the batting has struggled.
Their misery has been more visible the games outside their home venue of Mohali. In fact, the last time they visited Chennai, they were shot out for 138.
Given the huge contrast in their current fortunes, it would take more than just a big heart for fight for Punjab to upstage Chennai tomorrow.
Chennai Super Kings: MS Dhoni (Capt.), Akila Dananjaya, Albie Morkel, Srikkanth Anirudha, Ankit Rajpoot, Baba Aparajith, Ben Hilfenhaus, Ben Laughlin, Chris Morris, Dirk Nannes, Dwayne Bravo, Francois du Plessis, Imtiyaz Ahmed, Jason Holder, Michael Hussey, Mohit Sharma, Murali Vijay, Nuwan Kulasekara, R Karthikeyan, Ravichandran Ashwin, Ravindra Jadeja, Ronit More, Shadab Jakati, Subramaniam Badrinath, Suresh Raina, Vijay Shankar, Wriddhiman Saha.
Kings XI Punjab: Adam Gilchrist (Capt.), Mandeep Singh, Luke Pomersbach, David Miller, Manan Vohra, David Hussey, Piyush Chawla, Praveen Kumar, Harmeet Singh, Bhargav Bhatt, Parvinder Awana, Azhar Mahmood, Bipul Sharma, Siddharth Chitnis, Aniket Choudhary, Manpreet Gony, Gurkeerat Singh Mann, Shaun Marsh, Dimitri Mascernhas, Nitin Saini, Sandeep Sharma, Rajagopal Sathish, Sunny Singh, Paul Valthaty.