Two exciting teams trying to redefine themselves will go head-to-head in a game that has everything to play for. Delhi Daredevils won their second game against Rising Pune Supergiant in grand style, giving them a royal thrashing. Their first game against RCB though was a game they should have won but managed to lose spectacularly.
On the other hand, Kings XI Punjab, under new skipper Glenn Maxwell, started well, beating Pune and then RCB, but hit a roadblock in the form of a dominant Kolkata Knight Riders. While KXIP wouldn’t want their great start to be derailed further, Delhi would want their promising young squad to step up and deliver.
Here are five key areas where the game could be won and lost.
#1 With the Bat
Delhi’s openers have failed twice. However, Sanju Samson and Rishabh Pant, the two future Indian stars, have kept their flag flying. Pant’s brilliant half-century came in a losing cause but Samson’s promotion helped him smash a 63-ball century for which Pune had no answer. However, Delhi will genuinely hope for more contributors with the bat including their big foreign ticket, Sam Billings, who wasted a start in the second game.
Punjab’s batting is firing well. Manan Vohra has scored runs and so have Hashim Amla, Glenn Maxwell and David Miller. However, Punjab will want even Stoinis to get amongst the runs. Nevertheless, they are the better batting side with a strong foreign contingent.
#2 With the Ball
Delhi Daredevils have the better bowling attack of the two teams. While Punjab rely heavily on a string of Indian bowlers – Ishant, Sandeep Sharma, Mohit Patel and Axar Patel – Delhi have an excellent mix. They have the experience of the left-armer Zaheer Khan and the pace of Pat Cummins. They have the left-arm spinner Shahbaz Nadeem complementing the leg-spin of Amit Mishra. Chris Morris completes the attack but they also have the all-rounder Corey Anderson if one of the bowlers has an off-day.
Punjab will hope their prized asset, T Natarajan lives up to his promise and Varun Aaron as well, who did excellently against RCB with a spell of 2-21 in 4 overs. Aaron can be fast but unpredictable and one would hope that Maxwell knows how to handle him effectively.
On a small Ferozshah Kotla ground, Punjab will hope for Maxwell and Miller to tonk the spinners of Delhi to all parts. The big hitters of Punjab will need to shine on that sluggish pitch and they can do so only by playing attacking cricket.
While Amla scored an excellent half-century in the previous match, this game is a genuine opportunity to bring in either Martin Guptill or Eoin Morgan, who are both big hitters. Guptill for Stoinis is not a bad choice at all as that will give Punjab more firepower at the top since neither Vohra nor Amla are capable of shedding their stylish conventional cricket.
Delhi need a slightly stronger batting attack, which means Angelo Mathews could be drafted in instead of Billings. Mathews will give them a few overs too, so he is not a bad choice ahead of Cummins either.
Punjab’s X-factor is definitely Maxwell who has taken to captaincy like a fish to water and is leading from the front, with two powerful cameos already under his belt. Daredevils have an exciting line-up and Rishabh Pant is the player to watch out for as much for his game as the potential that he holds as an Indian international.
Delhi also possess some skill with the ball thanks to Cummins and Zaheer but Punjab would dearly want their star batsmen – Miller and Maxwell – to go big in this match against Delhi’s bowling. Maxwell, who has experimented first with Axar Patel and then with Stoinis up the order should try Miller too, as a batsman like him could single-handedly win the game if he has the time to settle down.
#5 Possible pitfalls
Maxwell shows an early vulnerability against spinners and at the Kotla, where the ball doesn’t come on nicely, that problem could be exploited. The same applies for Miller as well. A scenario could arise where Punjab have no choice but to keep attacking considering their opening pair is not really capable of giving them massive starts; good starts, yes, but not massive ones.
Delhi have already shown that they could choke due to the inexperience in their batting. Those two points they lost against RCB could come back to haunt them in the latter stages of the tournament. They are reliant on two young batsmen – Samson and Rishabh Pant. Delhi’s top 3 against RCB was a travesty – Tare, Billings and Nair. Against Pune, Delhi’s 2,3 and 4 managed to get the runs with Morris giving them a surprise push at the end.
But one cannot expect Morris to keep coming and scoring runs. If Delhi go with the same team, a couple of quick wickets early will put them under serious pressure.