IPL 2019: Chennai Super Kings prepare for Kings XI Punjab visit

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Ashwin returns to Chennai. Image - BCCI/SPORTZPICS.

A chance to go top of the Indian Premier League (IPL) table will be up for grabs on Saturday when defending champions Chennai Super Kings host Kings XI Punjab.

MS Dhoni and his Chennai side started the campaign with three successive victories but their unbeaten run was finally brought to an end by three-time champions Mumbai Indians who emerged victorious by 37 runs at the Wankhede Stadium.

MISFIRING CHENNAI OPENERS

As they bid to bounce back from their first defeat of the tournament, Chennai will look towards their openers Shane Watson and Ambati Rayudu to give a much better account of themselves after what has been an ordinary campaign so far for the two batsmen.

Together, the pair contributed 1,157 runs between themselves in Chennai’s title-winning campaign in 2018 but they have fallen short of those lofty standards by some distance in 2019 with less than 100 runs between them in four matches.

The failure of the openers to fire has seen the burden of run-scoring fall upon a formidable middle-order comprising of Suresh Raina, Kedar Jadhav and Dhoni who have stood up to the task well but their luck finally ran out in Mumbai on a slow deck.

With a squad littered with veteran campaigners, Chennai have made their experience count at the crucial junctures more oftenbut one man in particular has been on song throughout the campaign.

South Africa leg-spinner Imran Tahir has been leading Chennai’s charge with the ball this season with the veteran already picking up seven wickets in his four appearances. With the pitch at the Chepauk aiding spinners greatly in the two previous matches, Tahir can once again be expected to thrive.

The Proteas veteran’s battle against his Kings XI counterpart Ravichandran Ashwin will be an intriguing one with the latter set to return to his old stomping ground at Chennai.

KXIP STARTING TO CLICK INTO GEAR

While Ashwin has been among the controversies with his Mankad dismissal of Jos Buttler, the off-spinner has led Kings XI superbly with his side racking up three wins in their four matches.

Things are starting to look good for the Mohali-based franchise with all the elements starting to fall into place. An already formidable opening pairing of Chris Gayle and KL Rahul has been bolstered by a much stronger middle-order compared to last season with Sarfaraz Khan, Mayank Agarwal and David Miller all clicking into form.

England all-rounder Sam Curran too has truly arrived at the IPL after a disastrous start with the youngster claiming a sensational hat-trick to lead Punjab to a remarkable victory over Delhi Capitals.

The bowling is looking formidable as well with Mujeeb ur Rahman and Murugan Ashwin forming a strong spin contingent alongside the skipper while India pacer Mohammed Shami has been an excellent addition.

TEAM NEWS

There could be an IPL debut on the cards for New Zealand all-rounder Scott Kuggeleijn who has replaced the injured Lungi Ngidi in the Chennai squad.

The 27-year-old has played two ODIs and three T20s for his country so far and should be available to take the field against Punjab after joining up with the squad on Wednesday. Meanwhile, Chennai all-rounder Dwayne Bravo is a doubt for the game after picking up a hamstring injury in his side’s win over Mumbai.

For Punjab, veteran Chris Gayle sat out the clash against Delhi due to an injury with Curran replacing him in the playing XI.

The Windies opener could be back for the clash against the defending champions.

LIKELY XIs

Chennai Super Kings: Shane Watson, Ambati Rayudu, Suresh Raina, Kedar Jadhav, MS Dhoni (c and wk), Mitchell Santner, Ravindra Jadeja, Scott Kuggeleijn, Deepak Chahar, Mohit Sharma, Imran Tahir.

Kings XI Punjab: Chris Gayle, KL Rahul (wk), Mayank Agarwal, Sarfaraz Khan, David Miller, Mandeep Singh, Sam Curran, Ravi Ashwin (c), Murugan Ashwin, Mujeeb ur Rahman, Mohammed Shami.

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