Daredevils will have to work hard to dash the host’s hopes

Kings XI Punjab faces a situation it is quite familiar with. In the home-stretch, it has a few must-win matches to make the play-offs. But winning alone won’t help KXIP’s cause. Its prayers, that its net run-rate improves dramatically and two other play-off-aspirants lose, must also be answered.

Reaching this hilly destination for its last couple of matches of the Indian Premier League, KXIP has reasons to be hopeful against a well-beaten Delhi Daredevils on Thursday. On Saturday, the host plays Mumbai Indians.

Victories over the next three days will help KXIP finish with 16 points and match the present tally of Royal Challengers Bangalore and Sunrisers Hyderabad.

But, RCB has a match at home against table-topper Chennai Super Kings, while SRH hosts Rajasthan Royals and Kolkata Knight Riders.

Assuming that KXIP, RCB and SRH tie for the fourth spot, Virat Kohli’s men should advance as they have a net run-rate unlikely to be surpassed by the other teams in the equation.

Therefore, KXIP’s qualification is still possible, but highly improbable.

Leaving the calculations aside, Adam Gilchrist-led KXIP will first aim to get past a dangerous DD.

With Gilchrist showing some form in the last few games, DD will have to work that much harder to dash KXIP’s hopes.

After contrasting results in Tuesday’s outings, the teams landed here but chose not to train ahead of what is expected to be a tall-scoring encounter.

However, these two exciting but unpredictable sides have performed below potential this season. On the brighter side, KXIP has pulled off some good wins, including two against RCB after chasing down formidable targets.

The team relies far too much on the overseas players — Gilchrist, David Hussey, David Miller, Shaun Marsh and all-rounder Azhar Mahmood — and their periodic contributions have kept it alive in the competition.

The bowlers have often let the team down.

More or less, similar problems have afflicted DD this season.

The top-heavy batting, including an inconsistent Virender Sehwag, depends much on Mahela Jayawardena and David Warner to fire.

The bowling, like KXIP’s, with several tested medium-pacers has come a cropper more often than not.

As things stand, KXIP is still a motivated team. For DD, the wait for the competition to end is understandably and agonisingly long. It would still like to travel to Pune with a pride-salvaging win here.

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