Already out of IPL 2020, Chennai Super Kings can still cause major damage to Kings XI Punjab’s chances of play-off qualification when the teams meet in match number 53 of IPL 2020 at Abu Dhabi in the first match of the double header on Sunday.
KXIP’s defeat at the hands of Rajasthan Royals means they are not assured of qualification for IPL 2020 playoffs even if they beat CSK on Sunday. With 12 points from 13 games, 14 is the maximum that Punjab can now target.
However, SRH, RR and and KKR also have 12 points with one game to go. So, we might be in with a scenario with multiple teams ending on 14 points, and the net run-rate coming into play.
Punjab know they need to win handsomely again CSK. But the latter too will be keen to finish off IPL 2020 with a hat-trick of victories. As KXIP and CSK chase their respective targets in the match, here are three major player battles in the offing.
#1. Chris Gayle vs Lungi Ngidi
Even though KXIP went down to RR in their previous IPL 2020 encounter, Chris Gayle stood tall with a stupendous 99 from 63 balls, a blistering knock featuring as many as eight sixes. If Punjab lost despite Gayle’s belligerence, it had more to do with the failures of the others in the batting order.
Even since the 41-year-old made a delayed entry into KXIP’s playing eleven, he has been a revelation. In six IPL 2020 matches, the Universe Boss has smashed 276 runs at a strike rate of 144.50 with three fifties. He will be keen to play another big role against CSK.
South African fast bowler Lungi Ngidi was expected to play a major part in CSK’s IPL 2020 campaign. However, he has only featured in three games. And, while he has six wickets to his name, the same have come at a high economy rate of 10.66.
In the victory against KKR though, he played a significant role, dismissing the in-form Nitish Rana and the dangerous KKR skipper Eoin Morgan. When he gets things right, Ngidi can be quite ruthless. CSK would want one final big effort from him in their last IPL 2020 encounter. The wicket of Gayle would be the icing on the cake.
#2. Ruturaj Gaikwad vs Arshdeep Singh
The battle of the future! After becoming the subject of memes for his ducks in the wake of MS Dhoni’s ‘youngsters have no spark comment’, Ruturaj Gaikwad has responded to trolls in the most fitting manner. He has played two high-quality knocks in CSK’s consecutive wins over RCB and KKR in IPL 2020.
Gaikwad’s unbeaten 65 from 51 and 72 from 53 have won him back-to-back man-of-the-match awards. He has gone through a lot in his IPL 2020 journey, from his fight with COVID-19 to overcoming a horrendous run of low scores. Gaikwad will definitely aim for a hat-trick of match-winning efforts to end the tournament on a high.
While the experienced Mohammed Shami has been KXIP’s leading light with the ball in IPL 2020, young Arshdeep Singh has silently made his impact with some worthy bowling efforts. From eight matches, the 21-year-old left-arm seamer has nine wickets to his name at a strike rate of 16.55.
Arshdeep's high economy of 8.77 in IPL 2020 indicates that he is an unfinished product. But so is Gaikwad, and hence their tussle can produce something enticing. Arshdeep’s most impressive performance came against SRH with figures of 3 for 23 as the bowling unit defended a total of 126. The team would hope for more of the same from him.
#3. Nicholas Pooran vs Mitchell Santner
Apart from KL Rahul and Chris Gayle, Nicholas Pooran has been the go-to man for KXIP in IPL 2020 as far as their batting is concerned. While Rahul and Gayle have got the big runs, Pooran’s role has mostly been of playing sizzling cameos towards the end of the innings.
And the talented left-hander has done a wonderful job, which his numbers would certify -- 351 runs in 13 matches at an incredible strike rate of 173.76. KXIP will expect nothing less than another brilliant cameo from Pooran to lift the team as the net run-rate scenario is likely to come into play to decide the top four following the conclusion of the league stage in IPL 2020.
If there is one criticism of Pooran that can be made, it is that he has sometimes given his wicket away with reckless shots with the match in the balance. Even in his team's last IPL 2020 encounter against RR, Pooran rocketed away to 22 from 10 with three sweetly-timed sixes. However, he was back in the hut with two overs left, and that cost KXIP a good 10-15 runs.
CSK spinner Mitchell Santner has proved difficult to get away in the two IPL 2020 games that he has played. He has the ability to bowl in tight lines. Pooran is not someone who likes to be tied down. If he comes across Santner, he could either produce another memorable cameo or a forgettable shot. Expect nothing in between.