Kings XI Punjab will travel to southern India, to face two-time champions Chennai Super King in the first of the two games to be played in the Indian Premier League (IPL) on Thursday. The game will be held at MA Chidambaram Stadium.
Where to Watch Live
Play starts at 11.30am BST. Live coverage will be available on ITV 4 and ITV 4 HD. Follow the match live, via text updates, on ESPN Cricinfo.
Chennai lead the IPL table with 16 points and eight wins from 10 games. MS Dhoni's men have now won six matches in a row and should be heavy favourites against a side they hammered by 10 wickets in the reverse fixture.
The two-time champions and last year's finalists recorded a comfortable 37 run win over Pune Warriors in their previous game, after Suresh Raina, S Badrinath and Dhoni powered them to 164/3 in the first innings. Steven Smith, Kieron Richardson and Bhuvneshwar Kumar tried to provide a late charge in the Warriors' chase but another superb spell from youngster Mohit Sharma (3/21) proved the difference. The 21-year-old picked up crucial top order wickets - Aaron Finch, T Suman and Yuvraj Singh - and was backed by excellent fielding and a spell of 1/18 by West Indian Dwayne Bravo.
The Super Kings are now overwhelming favourites to claim a record third IPL title but Twenty20 is a fickle format and it takes very little to change momentum. Delhi Daredevils, for example, lost their first six games but have won two of the last three, to leave them with a faint chance of qualifying for the knock-out stages.
The batting continues to be as reliable as ever for the Chennai team. Australian Michael Hussey may have failed in the previous match but Raina and Badrinath delivered, while Dhoni's big hits seem never-ending. With the ball, any thoughts of the side not having a wicket-taking seamer have been banished with Sharma's rise. The Haryana youngster has done enough to give the national team selectors a new option, when the Indian national team leaves for the tri-nation One Day International (ODI) series in West Indies in the summer.
Meanwhile, Kings XI are still on the fringes of the top four. The team from Punjab have eight points and four wins from nine games. They are four points off the top sides but do have a game in hand over Mumbai Indians and Sunrisers Hyderabad, which could prove crucial. Indeed, games between Punjab, Mumbai, Hyderabad and perhaps even Royal Challengers Bangalore could be important in determining who finishes behind Chennai in the table.
Punjab were narrowly beaten by Mumbai in their last game, with the pre-tournament favourites riding on a brilliant and unbeaten 79 off 39 balls from captain Rohit Sharma. It was a truly spectacular innings, with six fours and as many sixes, and had it not been for Chris Gayle's brutal 175 off 66 balls, for Bangalore, in an earlier game, we might still be talking about Sharma's effort.
In any case, David Miller tried to respond in kind for Punjab. The Australian hit 56 off 34 balls and was backed by David Hussey and Praveen Kumar but they fell agonisingly short of the 175 run target. The damage was inflicted by India senior Harbhajan Singh, whose 3/14 included the wickets of all three middle-order Punjab batsmen - Gurkeerat Singh, Azhar Mahmood and Manpreet Gony - to drop them from 79/4 to 111/7.
Punjab face a daunting task in defeating Chennai at home. The Super Kings have won four of the last six home games this season, including the last three, and are on an understandable high. Temperatures in the city at this time of the year generally touch the mid-30C range, making for a gruelling contest and since this is an early game, expect tiredness to play a significant role in the result.
Chennai Super Kings
- Last Five (all competitions, most recent first): W W W W W
- Last Result: Chennai Super Kings defeated Pune Warriors India by 37 runs
Kings XI Punjab
- Last Five (all competitions, most recent first): L L W W L
- Last Result: Kings XI Punjab lost to Mumbai Indians by four runs
The Super Kings are unlikely to make any changes to the side. Wriddhiman Saha, brought in to replace out-of-form Murali Vijay has done enough to retain his spot and the all-round performance of South African Albie Morkel and Dwayne Bravo means they will retain theirs as well. The batting will again ride on Hussey, Raina, Badrinath, Dhoni and Bravo, while Sharma, Dirk Nannes and South African Chris Morris, with spinner Ravichandran Ashwin will form the bowling attack.
Hussey will probably continue as captain, leaving former Australian wicketkeeper Adam Gilchrist on the sidelines again. Punjab do have big hitters of the ball in Hussey, Miller, Gurkeerat Singh and Mandeep Singh the likely run-getters; Miller will have to be carefully watched, given his excellent form. Praveen Kumar, Manpreet Gony, Piyush Chawla and Englishman Azhar Mahmood are the likely wicket-takers but they will have to work very hard to contain Chennai's stars.