Dubai: High-flying Delhi Capitals will look to consolidate top spot in the points table on Saturday as they face three-time champions Chennai Super Kings in Sharjah, while Rajasthan Royals will be desperate for full points while taking on Royal Challengers Bangalore in Dubai in the Indian Premier League (IPL).
Earlier this week, the focus was once again on Delhi’s bowling attack as they managed to restrict the Rajasthan Royals and win by 13 runs in Dubai. Opener Shikhar Dhawan top-scored with 57 runs, while captain Shreyas Iyer once again led from the front with a quick 53 from 43 balls as the Capitals reached a challenging 161-7 in their allotted overs at Dubai Cricket Stadium.
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In reply, Rajasthan were cruising along following 41 off 35 deliveries from Ben Stokes and a sedate 32 from Robin Uthappa. But once again it was the superior bowling that came to the rescue for the Capitals as Anrich Nortje and young Tushar Deshpande picked up a couple of wickets each and Ravichandran Ashwin was at his miserly best with one wicket at the cost of just 17 runs.
The Delhi side will be a bit worried when it comes to the fitness of their captain after he had landed on his left shoulder during their previous match against Rajasthan. If Iyer does miss Saturday’s encounter, the Capitals will miss out on his calm and calculated leadership as well. That could jumble things up a bit for Delhi as they’ve already lost the young Rishab Pant with a hamstring injury. But they do have enough fire power with Prithvi Shaw and opener Dhawan expected to get better, while all-rounder Marcus Stoinis has been more than responsible in his approach.
However, the Capitals will have to contend with a team that has shown signs of improving with every outing as skipper MS Dhoni showed by deploying three spinners in their 20-run win against the Sunrisers Hyderabad on Tuesday. Shane Watson continued making progress with the bat with a handy 42 runs, while Ambati Rayudu was among the runs with 41 from 34 deliveries and Sam Curran’s 31 off 21 balls also weighed in for CSK to reach 167-6.
Every tactic that Dhoni employed last week worked for CSK — be it the promotion of Curran into the opening slot or completing pacer Deepak Chahar’s quota upfront while using seven bowlers to dry up the runs. Dhoni then employed leg spinner Piyush Chawla for just one over as late as the 16th over, while leaving things to his slower bowlers such as Ravindra Jadeja and Karn Sharma.
With the pitches experiencing wear and tear, Dhoni is well aware that the key would be the deployment of his slower bowlers more effectively. In Sharjah, at least, in the last two matches played, it has been the slower bowlers who have been instrumental.
Saturday’s first game in Dubai will see two teams who have lost their previous encounters. RCB went down by eight wickets against Kings XI Punjab on Thursday, after Rajasthan had faltered against Delhi the previous day.
RCB will be focused on fine-tuning their strategy after some inexplicable decisions during their loss to KXIP. The Virat Kohli-led side have won five of their eight games on the back of all-round performances, but looked out of sorts in their eight-wicket loss to KXIP, late on Thursday.
The Royals’ campaign this season has been marred by numerous top-order collapses even though they boast of one of the best batting line-up on paper.
Skipper Steve Smith is yet to make an impression with his batting, while Sanju Samson has been patchy after initial fireworks. Jos Buttler and Ben Stokes too have been failing to capitalise on their starts.
The young Rahul Tewatia has brought in solidity, but the Royals would do well to rely on the tried-and-tested batsmen they have at their disposal.