IPL Qualifier 2 preview: Chennai v Punjab

India

Chennai had to knock defending champions Mumbai out of the contest on Wednesday to reach this 'semi-final' while KXIP lost to Kolkata that same day, their fearsome line-up failing for only the fourth time in 15 matches.

<b>Overview</b><br>The Kings XI Punjab will be dismayed to find themselves in this do-or-die position, having dominated the IPL group stage so thoroughly, and the last side they'd want to face is the side they must, the Chennai Super Kings.

MS Dhoni's men are searching for their sixth IPL final, with two titles already in the records, while Punjab have never been to the last two and have their impressive batting line-up to thank for getting them here.

Chennai had to knock defending champions Mumbai out of the contest on Wednesday to reach this 'semi-final' while KXIP lost to Kolkata that same day, their fearsome line-up failing for only the fourth time in 15 matches.

For the Kings, they will hope the main reason they've made it this far, Australia batsman Glenn Maxwell, will find some form again, after his astonishing start to the tournament waned in latter games, often saved by David Miller.

Chennai have a nearly all-international top order, featuring Dwayne Smith, Brendon McCullum, Faf du Plessis and David Hussey, using their four allowed players there and leaving the bowling to Mohit Sharma, so successful this season.

So this game will essentially be a battle of the batting orders, with KXIP relying more ton their than Chennai, who have a stronger bowling attack in general. One expects the side who wins the toss to bowl first.

<b>Key Players</b><br>For Chennai, their opening pairing is key. Dwayne Smith has been excellent all tournament, sitting second on the runs list and with five half tons, while McCullum has been a stable partner. If they fail, skipper Dhoni can always be relied upon for a vital cameo.

The Kings, on the other hand, have been looking to their middle order, with Glenn Maxwell and David Miller doing the job more often than not if the openers falter. Maxwell is third on the batting list, while Miller averages over 45.

Bowling-wise, Chennai's Mohit Sharma has been their star performer, taking 22 wickets and holding on to the Purple Cap for much of the tournament. Sandeep Sharma and Akshar Patel have been tops for KXIP, but neither have been certain starters.

<b>Previous Meeting</b><br>When they faced each other in the group stage, Punjab's international middle order of Maxwell, Miller and George Bailey were at their peak, and the KXIP won by 44 runs.

Maxwell made one of his many big half centuries, while Miller and Bailey added 40s to push the score over 230, and the Chennai batsmen were unable to counter as only Faf du Plessis managed to put up a decent score (52).

<b>Likely Playing XIs</b><br><i>Chennai Super Kings:</i> Dwayne Smith, Brendon McCullum, Suresh Raina, Faf du Plessis, David Hussey, Ravi Aswhin, MS Dhoni, Ravi Jadeja, Mohit Sharma, Ashish Nehra

<i>Kings XI Punjab:</i> Manan Vohra, Virender Sehwag, Glenn Maxwell, David Miller, George Bailey (captain), Wriddhiman Saha (wicketkeeper), Akshar Patel, Mitchell Johnson, Rishi Dhawan, Karanveer Singh, Parvinder Awana.

<b>Cricket365's Prediction</b><br>Because it would be fun for Punjab to reach their first final, and boring for Chennai to do so yet again, we're going to say KXIP will overcome, in a final over thriller.

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