Pune: Their campaign in doldrums at the half-way stage, Pune Warriors would be desperate to change the scenario but they face a gigantic challenge when they take on table-toppers Chennai Super Kings in a Pepsi IPL match on Tuesday.
Languishing at the bottom of the table, Pune Warriors would be keen to repeat the performance they gave a fortnight ago against the same opposition, when they defeated them by 24 runs -- that too in an away match.
But in the days after that, the Allan Donald-coached side has lost four matches on the trot, including last night's game against an equally out of sorts Delhi Daredevils by 15 runs, and the odds are heavily stacked against them.
Chennai Super Kings, on the other hand, have been in destructive form, most recently defeating defending champions Kolkata Knight Riders by 14 runs lon Sunday.
The Warriors have been inconsistent in all departments, with the batsmen failing to contribute in the initial matches and bowlers being sent on a leather hunt in the later games.
Jamaican Chris Gayle had clobbered the Pune bowlers for a record 66-ball 175 at Bangalore, and they conceded 63 runs off their last five overs against a struggling Delhi Daredevils side on Sunday.
Pune's batting has failed to fire in unison in most of the matches with captain Aaron Finch being the only one to have scored half-centuries, on three occasions. His compatriot Steve Smith has also made some useful contributions in the middle order.
Robin Uthappa, who opens the innings, has got the starts but the wicket-keeper batsman has been able to capitalise on them.
Senior Indian player Yuvraj Singh is known to change the course of the game and Pune would hope the flamboyant batsman returns to form against CSK, having logged just 135 runs in his six games.
Pacer Bhuvneshwar Kumar has been the key bowler for Pune and he would be eager to rattle the famed Chennai batting with the support of Ashok Dinda and Mitchell Marsh. Despite being expensive, Dinda is the highest wicket-taker for his side with 10 wickets at an average of 31.60.
On the other hand, two-time IPL champions Chennai Super Kings will step out with the twin agenda of revenge and maintaining their leadership position in the tournament.
In sharp contrast to the hosts, Chennai have won their last five matches, with opener Michael Hussey in sublime form.
Hussey had smashed a stroke-filled 95 against title holders Kolkata Knight Riders in the previous match and the Australian is the second highest run scorer in the series with 445 in eight games.
Skipper Mahendra Singh Dhoni too has been in ominous form with the bat, which will be a cause of concern for Pune, while all-rounder Ravindra Jadeja has proved his mettle as a finisher.
West Indian all-rounder Dwayne Bravo is the highest wicket-taker for Chennai with 15 wickets but the Trinidadian has struggled with the bat in the tournament.
Chennai dropped the under-performing Murali Vijay in the previous game and Wriddhiman Saha is likely to continue as the opener with his useful contribution of 39 in the 103-run partnership he shared with Hussey.
The Chennai pace attack doesn't look settled and lacks the required sting. Dirk Nannes has grabbed just four wickets in five outings and South African all-rounder Albie Morkel has picked up just one wicket in his three games.
Young Indian bowler Mohit Sharma has done reasonably well, scalping six wickets in as many matches at an average of 18.50 with an economy rate of 6.16.
Pune Warriors: Aaron Finch (captain), Angelo Mathews, Abhishek Nayar, Ajanta Mendis, Ali Murtaza, Anustup Mazumdar, Ashok Dinda, Bhuvneshwar Kumar, Dheeraj Jadhav, Eklavya Dwivedi, Harpreet Singh, Ishwar Pandey, Kane Richardson, Krishnakant Upadhyay, Luke Wright, Mahesh Rawat, Manish Pandey, Marlon Samuels, Mitchell Marsh, Mithun Manhas, Parvez Rassol, Rahul Sharma, R Gomez, Robin Uthappa, Ross Taylor, Shrikant Wagh, Steve Smith, T Suman, Tamim Iqbal, Udit Birla, Wayne Parnell and Yuvraj Singh.
Chennai Super Kings: MS Dhoni (captain & wicket-keeper), 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.