Tuesday, May 22, 2012
Start time 2000 (1430 GMT)
Delhi Daredevils and Kolkata Knight Riders have easily been the best sides this IPL. It is not only the points table which tells you that. The other two sides in the playoffs have not been as dominant. Mumbai Indians have won as many games as Knight Riders have, but have not been remotely as clinical; Chennai Super Kings have had to rely on other sides' messing up to sneak in.
Neither Daredevils nor Knight Riders have made it to an IPL final before. One of them will do that today. Daredevils have traversed the entire length of the points table this season, ending on top following their last-place finish in 2011. Realising that their batting was too dependent on Virender Sehwag last season, they brought in heavyweights like Kevin Pietersen, Mahela Jayawardena and Ross Taylor. While Taylor has almost sleepwalked through the season, Pietersen's impact while he was available was huge. The arrival of David Warner has filled the void left behind by Pietersen and Jayawardene has been steady.
Knight Riders' transformation from the side once led by Sourav Ganguly is now complete. They were the target of numerous jokes for the first three IPL seasons but no one's laughing now. A run of eight consecutive defeats in 2009 has given way to six consecutive wins this season. Had Knight Riders not blown a middling chase against Kings XI Punjab at home, they would have won nine in a row.
A heavy-duty Daredevils line-up is up against the only attack to go for less than seven runs an over this season. The venue tilts the contest slightly in favour of Knight Riders. The pitch at the Sahara Stadium in Pune has been a tricky one for batsmen, as Pune Warriors' Robin Uthappa pointed out. "It's the toughest wicket we have played in the country and it's very difficult to score runs here," Uthappa said. Only Wankhede Stadium, among the regular venues, has had a lower run-rate this season, 7.11, than Pune, 7.34.
Knight Riders defended 136 quite comfortably against Warriors a couple of days ago in Pune. Daredevils had chased down 147 in 16 overs against Warriors in Pune. Should be some contest today. The loser will get another match on Friday to make the final.
Delhi Daredevils: WLWLW (most recent first)
Kolkata Knight Riders: WWLLW
Players to watch
Despite the presence of other big guns, Daredevils have still relied, though to a lesser extent than previous season, on Virender Sehwag. Their captain has responded with 484 runs at a strike-rate of 164.62, including five consecutive half-centuries. The slowness of the Pune pitch had made no difference to Sehwag when he took the Warriors bowlers for an unbeaten 87 off 48 balls. Will he smash Sunil Narine today, like he said he would have done had he not got out early when these two sides last met?
Twenty-two wickets at 5.14 runs an over. Sunil Narine has been nearly unplayable, with even Sachin Tendulkar failing to pick him. It is very difficult to decipher from his release whether it is an offspinner or the flicked carrom ball, unlike in the cases of Ajantha Mendis and even R Ashwin. How will Daredevils tackle him?
That Gautam Gambhir has made six fifties this season and the rest of his team-mates put together have managed three says it all. Knight Riders, though, have managed to win their previous two games without a big contribution from their captain. Gambhir has made lots of runs this season on pitches where scoring them has not been easy. Will he manage to click again?
Warner, Jayawardena and Morne Morkel should take three overseas player spots. Will Daredevils risk playing Taylor as the fourth? Will they stick with the allrounder Andre Russell, who went for 51 runs in their previous game? Or will they play Roelof van der Merwe for an additional spin option? They went in with two Indian left-arm spinners Pawan Negi and Shahbaz Nadeem when they played Warriors in Pune.
Knight Riders could stick to the same side that won in Pune and Mumbai, with plenty of spin options in Narine, Shakib Al Hasan, Iqbal Abdulla and Yusuf Pathan.
Meetings this season
Daredevils won a rain-affected game by eight wickets in Kolkata. Knight Riders restricted Daredevils to 153 in Delhi in the return match and won by six wickets with Brendon McCullum making a fifty. Jayawardena and Gambhir had a heated altercation in that game after the former was given not out when he edged Jacques Kallis to the wicketkeeper.
Stats and trivia
Knight Riders have scored the least runs this season as a team, 2150 in 15 games compared to Daredevils' 2365 in 16.
Knight Riders have conceded just 6.99 runs an over, by far the lowest this season. The next best are Mumbai Indians, who have gone for 7.54. Daredevils have given away 7.73.
Warner and Sehwag have the highest strike-rates this season, 172.02 and 164.62 (min 100 runs)
"I told everyone 'give this line-up a year or so and we will dominate,' and that's exactly what we have done." - Morne Morkel isn't surprised by Daredevils' improvement this season