Kings XI Punjab had to win three games out of three at the start of the week to have any chances of making it to the playoffs. They have managed to win two and will be hoping to continue their run against Rising Pune Supergiant on Sunday (May 14) at the Maharashtra Cricket Association Stadium.
It is a clash vital to deciding the line-up for the playoffs, with the winner confirming qualification.
Having eeked out a narrow seven-run over Mumbai Indians , Punjab will hope to carry that momentum against Pune, a team they defeated earlier in the tournament by six wickets.
Glenn Maxwell’s decision to open the batting with Wriddhiman Saha was vindicated as the wicketkeeper-batsman smacked a belligerent 55-ball 93 to help Punjab reach a towering 230 for 3 in their 20 overs.
The good news for Punjab is that their batsman have finally found their groove. Martin Guptill has provided rapid starts while Maxwell and Axar Patel have come into their own with some lusty hitting when required.
The worrisome factor for the visitors would be their bowling combination, which they still haven’t been able to settle on, being forced to chop and change every match. Having said that, their bowlers have held nerve to bring up their two most recent wins, showing results when sticking to their plans.
Pune fluffed their chance to confirm a playoff spot, going down by seven runs against a depleted Delhi Daredevils. But, as Steven Smith, the skipper, said at the post-match presentation, “You can’t win every game.”
Pune can take heart in that they have won four of the six games at home. A win on Sunday could even put them in the running for a top two finish.
Ben Stokes has been exemplary in providing the necessary balance to the team, along with Smith and Manoj Tiwari in the middle order. With the Pune wicket offering a bit more turn, the team management might be tempted to bring in an extra spinner in place of Daniel Christian, who hasn’t set the tournament alight.
Played 3. Punjab 2, Pune 1.
This will be the first time that these two sides meet at Maharashtra Cricket Association Stadium.