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Payback on the agenda as Delhi face Gujarat

Wisden India logo Wisden India 03-05-2016
© Wisden

It’s not quite a top-of-table clash – Mumbai Indians having taken second spot – but when the first-ranked Gujarat Lions take on the third-ranked Delhi Daredevils, it is with the knowledge that this might not be the last meeting between the two in the 2016 Indian Premier League.

Their first match was an edge-of-the-seat thriller that Chris Morris brought alive with a manic unbeaten 82 off 32 with Delhi losing by one run. They would dearly love to return the favour in Rajkot on Tuesday (May 3). And if we go by the overall form and trend, both these sides could also face each other in a match beyond the league phase.

So, apart from the points on offer, the winning side might gain a psychological edge too.

After beginning the tournament in high-flying fashion, Gujarat were brought down to earth somewhat with a humbling 23-run loss to Kings XI Punjab on Sunday. They have to put that behind them quickly and return to the Saurashtra Cricket Association Stadium for what will be their last match at the venue – with the two remaining ‘home’ matches slated for Kanpur.

For Delhi, fresh off a 27-run win against Kolkata Knight Riders on Saturday, this will be yet another opportunity to continue the good work this season, with four wins out of six matches and a squad that’s come together nicely under Zaheer Khan’s able leadership. Zaheer the bowler was renowned for being among the smartest operators in the business, and he has brought all that nous on to the field of play. Delhi also have an embarrassment of riches among the overseas contingent, and with Sam Billings grabbing his opportunity by striking a fine half-century against Kolkata, it only adds to their happy headache. JP Duminy batted in the nets, but the team management will take a call on his fitness tomorrow. A Delhi official said Duminy was being monitored, and was progressing well. If he is fit, which four to select among Carlos Brathwaite, Quinton de Kock, Imran Tahir, Duminy, Morris and Billings will be a gilt-edged exercise in elimination.

On the fitness front, there was good news for Gujarat Lions, with Aaron Finch taking part in the full training session on match eve. A likely return to the XI for Finch will be welcome news for Gujarat, who had been short of firepower after the top order. If Finch does come in, James Faulkner will likely have to make way, and to compensate for the loss of a bowler, Gujarat could bench the young Ishan Kishan and draft in someone who can turn his arm over. If required, Dwayne Smith’s services can also be pressed into action.

Suresh Raina, the Gujarat captain, didn’t attend the optional training session on Monday, but the team was otherwise in full attendance, eager to put the loss against Punjab behind them and get back to winning ways.

The pitch in Rajkot will be the same one that was used for the Gujarat-Punjab match, so while it might have some natural wear and tear, strokemaking isn’t going to be too difficult. The odd ball might stop a bit, though, and both teams would have taken note of the impact spinners had in that contest.

For Delhi, who have played the fewest matches among all teams so far, it’s an opportunity to get into a good groove with several matches lined up in the coming weeks. Tellingly, Delhi have had different heroes for each match, indicating how well the team had gelled and how each member was willing to put his hand up.

“Morris nearly pulled off a remarkable victory for us the other day,” said Billings of the previous meeting between the two teams. “It was the best hitting I have seen for a long time. People are putting in good performances, and in every game it seems to be someone else putting their hand up, which is a good thing for us. At the moment we are in a good patch and we need to get the momentum going.”

The guiding hands of Rahul Dravid and Paddy Upton have been evident in the way Delhi have gone about this tournament, with a host of young players all eager and hungry to make their mark performing collectively to attain results that are above pre-tournament expectations.

For Tuesday’s match, though, expectations have been recalibrated, and even though Gujarat have the bigger star power, it will not be counted as an upset if Delhi win.

Teams (from)

Gujarat Lions: Suresh Raina (capt), Brendon McCullum, Dwayne Smith, Aaron Finch, Dinesh Karthik (wk), Dwayne Bravo, Ravindra Jadeja, Ishan Kishan, Akshdeep Nath, James Faulkner, Praveen Kumar, Dhawal Kulkarni, Pravin Tambe, Dale Steyn, Andrew Tye, Shivil Kaushik, Pradeep Sangwan, Paras Dogra, Amit Mishra, Eklavya Dwivedi, Sarabjit Ladda, Shadab Jakati, Umang Sharma, Jaydev Shah.

Delhi Daredevils: Zaheer Khan (capt), Quinton de Kock (wk), Shreyas Iyer, Mayank Agarwal, Sanju Samson, Karun Nair, JP Duminy, Sam Billings, Carlos Brathwaite, Chris Morris, Rishabh Pant, Pawan Negi, Amit Mishra, Zaheer Khan, Mohammed Shami, Khalil Ahmed, Nathan Coulter-Nile, Jayant Yadav, Imran Tahir, Akhil Herwadkar, Mahipal Lomror, Chama Milind, Shahbaz Nadeem, Pratyush Singh, Pawan Suyal.

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