Delhi Daredevils and King XI Punjab, two sides with contrasting wins in their previous match, will square off for the first time in this year's Pepsi Indian Premier League at the Feroz Shah Kotla in New Delhi on Tuesday with different objectives. While Punjab look to lift themselves into the top half of the table, Delhi would look to get off the bottom.
While Delhi's dominant nine-wicket win over Mumbai Indians has elevated expectations of a repeat, Punjab's come from behind win over Pune Warriors India to give them their third win in six matches has raised hopes of a resurgence after five consecutive seasons of having the 'underdogs' tag.
Delhi would be buoyed by Virender Sehwag's return to form, while Mahela Jayawardene opening the batting brought a sense of calm to a side that has struggled to get off to decent starts. That is unlikely to change any time soon, which means David Warner will bat at No. 3. Given the batting is top heavy, the team's middle order, consisting of local Indian players like Venugopal Rao and Kedhar Jadhav, looks light in terms of experience and will have to punch above its weight.
Delhi's problem this season has stemmed from the fact that they've failed to seize key moments. Partly, the bowling has been one of the reason's for their lacklustre showing so far. While Umesh Yadav has looked patchy, Morne Morkel's absence against Mumbai, especially in the death overs, nearly proved costly. With Andre Russell failing to live up to expectations, Morkel is likely to make a comeback.
That, however, solves just a small part of their problems. The Indian bowlers, especially Irfan Pathan and Ajit Agarkar, have leaked too many runs towards the death. In their last two matches, Delhi conceded over 100 runs in the last 10 overs, putting enormous pressure on the batting to bail the side out. To add to their woes, the fielding too has hardly inspired any confidence. They dropped as many as three catches against Mumbai, while the ground fielding has ranged from average to plain ordinary, not something they can afford having won just one out of their seven games so far.
Punjab look better placed in the points table, but that can't hide the side's inconsistency with both bat and ball. Apart from their opening game, which they won by eight wickets, they've looked scrappy with their win against Kolkata Knight Riders coming off the last ball and the one against Pune with a ball to spare.
Shaun Marsh, who has been in prolific form for the franchise over the years, has been ruled out of the match, given he is just coming off a surgery on his injured hamstring. That means Adam Gilchrist, who is under tremendous pressure to fire upfront, will have yet another opportunity to rediscover his touch.
The team management has placed immense faith in the local players. Mandeep Singh repaid that faith as he anchored a tense run-chase along with David Miller, who helped them get out of jail with an unbeaten 80 off 41 balls, in the previous outing against Pune. Manan Vohra and Gurkeerat Simgh too have looked the part, displaying signs of class but that necessarily hasn't translated into big scores, something they would look to correct going forward.
The bowling unit has lacked sting, especially upfront. The Power Play overs have often been picked away for plenty and from there on, the side has often had to play catch up. All of them will have to collectively take responsibility and bowl better than they have done so far.
On paper, Delhi playing at home may have a slight edge, but Punjab's ability to surprise their opponents is something Delhi would do well to factor in.
Delhi Daredevils: Mahela Jayawardene (capt), David Warner, Morne Morkel, Johan Botha, Roelof van der Merwe, Andre Russell, Jeevan Mendis, Virender Sehwag, Naman Ojha (wk), Manprit Juneja, Varun Aaron, Ajit Agarkar, Gulam Bodi, Unmukt Chand, Royston Dias, CM Gautam (wk), Kedar Jadhav (wk), Siddarth Kaul, Shahbaz Nadeem, Yogesh Nagar, Sujit Nayak, Pawan Negi, Ashish Nehra, Irfan Pathan, Aristh Singhvi, Venugopal Rao, Umesh Yadav.
Kings XI Punjab: Adam Gilchrist (capt, wk), Azhar Mahmood, David Hussey, David Miller, Dimitri Mascarenhas, Luke Pomersbach, Ryan Harris, Bhargav Bhatt, Bipul Sharma, Gurkeerat Mann Singh, Harmeet Singh Bansal, Mandeep Singh, Manpreet Gony, Nitin Saini (wk), Parvinder Awana, Paul Valthaty, Piyush Chawla, Praveen Kumar, Manan Vohra, Aniket Choudhary, R Satish, Sandeep Sharma, Siddharth Chitnis, Sunny Singh.