Delhi Daredevils will play their first home match of IPL 2017. The last of the opening ceremonies will take place at the Feroz Shah Kotla as the home side take on a Kings XI Punjab side that lost its last game at the Eden Gardens, after beginning the tournament with two home wins.
Delhi also tasted defeat in their first game at the hands of a Royal Challengers Bangalore team that was playing without Virat Kohli, AB de Villiers and KL Rahul. Failing to hold its nerve, the Delhi outfit faltered towards the end of their chase, losing by 15 runs.
Rahul Dravid’s boys came back strongly against a Rising Pune Supergiant team that was playing without its captain Steve Smith. Ajinkya Rahane took on captaincy duties, but could not think of a way to stop Sanju Samson’s onslaught.
The Kerala batsman went on to score this year’s first IPL century, helping DD in putting up a huge score of 205. What would have pleased Dravid the most is the way in which his side dismissed RPS for just 108.
While DD will look to begin at home with a win, Kings XI have been playing some good cricket and will look to get back on track. Here are four player battles which might decide the outcome of the match.
#1 Sam Billings vs Sandeep Sharma
The home side has invested a lot of faith in the young English batsman who has responded with two quick starts in the two games so far. Even through the India-England series, Billings got off to quick starts but was never able to capitalize.
Against the Punjab side, Billings will not want to fritter away another start. Sandeep Sharma, who has been an effective spearhead for the visiting side, had an off day against Gautam Gambhir in their last game. There was a lack of penetration from the Punjab bowlers as a unit, letting the Kolkata side waltz home to victory.
The medium pacer will have his task cut out against an aggressive opener.
#2 Rishabh Pant vs Axar Patel
Rishabh Pant has been phenomenal for the Delhi side so far. While he almost took the side home single-handedly against Bangalore, he provided some fireworks towards the end of the innings against Pune as well. Despite a devastating loss on the personal front, he has shown tremendous maturity to play the way he has.
It is pretty clear that Pant is a mainstay in the middle order for the Daredevils and they will count on him to deliver tonight in front of the home crowd. During the middle overs, he will come up against the wily Axar Patel.
Axar made his mark in the IPL during his debut season and earned an India call-up. He will want to rediscover the form that brought him into national reckoning. He hasn’t been effective with the bat so far in three innings, but has kept the runs down with his economical bowling. His economical bowling will be put to test against a rampaging Rishabh Pant.
#3 Zaheer Khan vs Manan Vohra
One of Delhi’s great strengths is their skipper Zaheer Khan. One of the smartest bowlers to bowl for India, Zaheer’s fitness and skill have been able to take the stress of the shortest format and so far he has led from the front.
If he decides to open the bowling tonight, which is where he is most effective, he will come up against a fine young batsman, Manan Vohra. The Punjab opener has consistently given his side quick starts, while his partner Hashim Amla has played more of an anchor role.
Whether he is able to get off to a quick start against the swing and experience of the left-armer will have a great effect on the rest of the batting line up.
#4 Pat Cummins vs Glenn Maxwell
In a battle of the Aussies, we will see the quick Pat Cummins taking on the dangerous Glenn Maxwell. It will be a battle to watch if they do come up against each other during the course of the match. The visiting side heavily depends on their skipper Maxwell, and getting him early just demoralizes the rest of the lineup.
Apart from David Miller, Maxwell has been their major catalyst and captaincy seems to be sitting lightly on his shoulders. On the home side’s front, their bowling looks strong with the likes of Zaheer and Chris Morris partnering Cummins.
However, having played together for a long time, Cummins will be expected to provide the most insights on getting the rival skipper out.