IPL 2013 Preview: Clash against Delhi Daredevils a potential banana skin for Bangalore Royal Challengers
Chris Gayle and Virat Kohli have the second-highest partnership in T20 cricket - an unbeaten 204 - and it came against Delhi Daredevils at the Feroz Shah Kotla last year.
Less than a week ago, Royal Challengers Bangalore would have been buoyed by a look at the Indian Premier League 2013 points table where they were placed second and with five matches in hand, they were looking at a relatively easy path to qualification.
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However, a manic 38-ball David Miller hurricane later, they find themselves fourth on the table with only the Net Run Rate separating them from Sunrisers Hyderabad, and questions about their ability to win away from home being asked constantly. Six away matches have brought five defeats, and Bangalore will do their playoff hopes a world of good if they can remedy that when they face Delhi Daredevils at Feroz Shah Kotla on Friday.
Delhi have reached a point of no return and have nothing to lose since a playoff spot is beyond them now. While that is not happy news for them, it does make them a dangerous side for opponents since they can play party-poopers. Even without Kevin Pietersen, Delhi have the quality, on paper, to do much better than their record - three wins in 12 games - suggests.
If their last game, against Rajasthan Royals, is anything to go by, Delhi are looking at playing with a lot more freedom than they have so far. Against Rajasthan, Mahela Jayawardene led a side with six changes in the playing XI, and though they weren't eventually on the winning side, some of the changes - such as bringing in Siddharth Kaul, 22, and Pawan Negi, 20 - were positive moves.
Delhi have felt the pinch most at the top of the order with Virender Sehwag's indifferent form. Sehwag promised much with 95 not out against Mumbai Indians, but he's had disappointing returns before and since that knock. As a result, the burden of scoring has fallen on Jayawardene and David Warner.
Bangalore don't have as many batting worries, though they will continue to face the charge that they're over-reliant on Chris Gayle, Virat Kohli and AB de Villiers. Kohli, the captain, is due for runs after starting the season in terrific form but tailing off a bit in the past few matches. Cheteshwar Pujara's return to the top of the order augurs well for Bangalore, who can finally bank on a settled opening combination.
The bowling continues to be the flashpoint for Bangalore, often crumbling under pressure, especially away from home. The defeats against Kings XI Punjab and Chennai Super Kings are the best illustrations of that, and it will be surprising if there aren't a few changes, with RP Singh's spot definitely under the scanner.
Barring injury, Bangalore's overseas spots aren't likely to change, with Moises Henriques and Ravi Rampaul joining Gayle and de Villiers, unless they are tempted to bring back Muttiah Muralitharan if the Delhi pitch warrants such a move.
Delhi have experimented a fair bit with their overseas player combinations, to the extent that even Morne Morkel hasn't had an extended run. But with Ben Rohrer finding form with a half-century against Rajasthan, Delhi too will be reluctant to make too many changes.
Everything to play for for one team, and nothing to lose for another - it's as good a situation as viewers can hope for with the IPL moving to its final stages.
Delhi Daredevils: Mahela Jayawardene (capt), Virender Sehwag, Unmukt Chand, David Warner, Johan Botha, Kedar Jadhav (wk), Irfan Pathan, Umesh Yadav, Morne Morkel, Roelof van der Merwe, Andre Russell, Jeevan Mendis, Naman Ojha, Manprit Juneja, Varun Aaron, Ajit Agarkar, Gulam Bodi, Royston Dias, CM Gautam, Siddarth Kaul, Shahbaz Nadeem, Yogesh Nagar, Sujit Nayak, Pawan Negi, Ashish Nehra, Aristh Singhvi, Bharat Chipli.
Royal Challengers Bangalore: Virat Kohli (capt), KP Appanna, KL Rahul, Arun Karthik (wk), Sheldon Jackson, Murali Kartik, Zaheer Khan, Abhimanyu Mithun, Abhinav Mukund, Karun Nair, Pankaj Singh, Prashanth Parameswaran, Harshal Patel, Sandeep Warrier, RP Singh, Sunny Sohal, J Syed Mohammad, Saurabh Tiwary, Jaidev Unadkat, Vinay Kumar, Vijay Zol, Christopher Barnwell, Daniel Christian, AB de Villiers, Tillakaratne Dilshan, Chris Gayle, Moises Henriques, Andrew McDonald, Muttiah Muralitharan, Ravi Rampaul, Daniel Vettori.