So, we are back to Kotla, where the home team currently dominates the standings and deservingly enough, winning all their games pretty convincingly. The opposition they face today are a team that started off as underdogs, strung together a few wins and have now again lost their way in the dark. Saturday night offers a relatively easy fixture on paper for the Delhi boys, but we all know that the game is not played on paper. After winning four games out of five, Sehwag’s men are charged up and looking to move further ahead of the trailing teams to ensure a place in the playoffs though there is still a long way to go. They would look to break the jinx of the Mumbai Indians who won almost all their games in the league stage in a previous edition, but faltered in the knockouts where it mattered most. Pune, on the other hand are recovering from Dhoni’s “helicopter blow” to their side when they gave away a match which they were looking firm favorites to take home. Having lost three consecutive away games after a strong start, they are showing signs of homesickness. Of the two teams, they would be more desperate to emerge on top in this one, so as to drive their derailed train back on track.
Head to head: Of the two times that they have faced each other, Delhi came out with the money in a high scoring contest in one, while the other game was disappointingly, washed out.
Kevin Pietersen: After being available to the Daredevils, he has hit top form almost instantly. A good player of spin as well as seam, he can take a match through all by himself and his century in the last game helped the Deccan Chargers understand that. Sending him back to the pavilion would be top priority for the Warriors, lest he start his fireworks.
Shahbaz Nadeem: The slow left arm bowler has impressed one and all with his economy rate as well as his wicket taking ability. Kevin Pietersen once said that during practice sessions, he couldn’t find the weak spot of the bowler which made it very difficult to play him. Having picked up five wickets in the past two games averaging just four runs an over, the youngster would play a big role for the men in red in this edition.
Morne Morkel: Undoubtedly, one of the best seamers the season has seen so far, Morkel would look to strike early into the game. Being made to bowl in the early, slog or late overs, he has brought smiles to the supporters’ faces at every period of time, being brilliant with his variations in pace and placement, which makes life difficult for the batsmen.
Jesse Ryder: The massive figure of Ryder is enough to give the bowlers jitters when he makes it to the crease. The Kiwi has proved valuable to the Maharashtrian side with brisk knocks that have taken Pune all the way or at least up to the finishing line. Relative to the other members in the squad, he has shown consistency with the bat, and if he gets going today, Pune could well be on their way to a much-needed victory.
Robin Uthappa: The wicket-keeper batsman has done well so far, behind the stumps as well as in front of them. In case the inconsistent top order fails to connect, he would have to play a very balanced innings of keeping his wicket as well as keeping the run rate up, which would be vital to the outcome.
Ashish Nehra: Still recovering from the horrendous last over against the Royal Challengers, Nehra did well in the match against the Superkings, claiming 2 for 23. Also, returning to his original home ground and being a part of the daredevils squad earlier, he could well be the party-spoiler for Delhi.
Game Changer: Captaining decisions would be the key factor today, especially for Sourav Ganguly, facing a “high-on-form” side, on the back of a few decisions he’d like to forget. Though he can’t really be blamed for the “Nehra incident” as when a player does badly, the captain gets the blame and when he does well, he takes the credit. Sehwag, on the other side, wouldn’t be too bothered, having a star studded bowling and batting squad at his disposal. A few mistakes could be pardoned for his side, though the Warriors would look to pounce at every opportunity they get.
Prediction: A well fought contest would see Delhi notching up another two points to stay atop the table.