For Punjab, it might become a case of so near yet so far. After their crucial victory over Chennai, even if they stun the table-toppers Delhi at the HPCA stadium on Saturday in their final league match, they may not be able to make it to the playoffs. That is because of their negative run-rate.
As for Delhi, they are assured of at least a second spot. For them, the result of their last game will not matter much. But they would like to go into the playoffs (Qualifier 1 in Pune on May 22) with a win behind them and as the top-placed team, rather than with two successive defeats, after losing to Bangalore at home on Thursday night.
Despite the near-hopeless situation Punjab are in, they would like to go out with a bang rather than a whimper. And what better way than overcoming title favourites Delhi, who are again likely to be without Virender Sehwag who is unwell.
Though the toss played a big role in deciding the fate of Thursday’s match against Chennai, it was the performance of the Punjab seamers that turned the tide. Adam Gilchrist would be hoping for a similar effort from his bowlers, and of course, for the coin to fall in his favour.
“The way all four seamers bowled was heartening. Praveen Kumar has regained his knack of picking up early wickets while Parvinder Awana has been going from strength to strength. The other two, Ryan Harris and Azhar Mahmood, have been bowling well. If the foursome can do an encore, we can tame the mighty Delhi batting too,” Gilchrist said on the eve of the match.
As for their chances of qualifying for the playoffs, Gilchrist said that the first priority was to win the game. “The rest is in the hands of fate. We need to play our best and then hope for the best.”
For Delhi, the loss to Bangalore on Thursday was just an aberration. “We ran into Chris Gayle in top flight. He just batted us out of the game. But we almost chased down the huge total. That was a major plus for us from the game, along with Ross Taylor finally striking form,” said stand-in skipper Mahela Jayawardene.