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Capitals and Super Giants seek consistency to escape mid-table logjam

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Six games to go out of 14 may sound like a lot, but not when you are placed sixth in a mid-table logjam, with five teams above jostling to confirm a top-four finish, and two others below you breathing down your neck. Delhi Capitals’ rollercoaster lose-one-win-one ride has been on for six games now, and they will be looking for some consistency at this stage.

Hit by Covid-19 and then a needless no-ball-that-never-happened controversy, they can still be buoyed by Kuldeep Yadav’s resurgence, Mitchell Marsh’s brief spark on return from quarantine, and their effective pace battery, led by Mustafizur Rahman and Khaleel Ahmed.

Although Khaleel missed Capitals’ last match due to a hamstring injury, the emerging Chetan Sakariya – another left-armer in their ranks – answered the call with three economical overs, which included the wicket of Aaron Finch off his third ball.

But what of Capitals’ batting? Openers David Warner and Prithvi Shaw aside, their line-up hasn’t offered much encouragement. Rishabh Pant has occasionally flickered, but not lit up the show yet; Lalit Yadav’s form has faded away after a bright start; Rovman Powell has got respectable scores in only the last two matches; and Sarfaraz Khan has been in and out of the side.

Despite four losses in eight matches, Capitals boast of the best net run rate among all teams. But that will count for little if they can’t pocket vital points. To summarise it all, only four playoffs spots are up for grabs, and eight teams – nine, if you are a Chennai Super Kings fan – are still in the running, a reality which Capitals cannot shy away from.

Against this background they face Lucknow Super Giants, who will be eyeing a hat-trick of wins. A line-up filled with allrounders – two pace-bowling in Jason Holder and Marcus Stoinis, one left-arm spin-bowling in Krunal Pandya, and an offspin-bowling one in Deepak Hooda – Super Giants, on form, appear to have one foot inside the playoffs door already.

Like Capitals, they have had star performers with the ball, the latest of which is the left-arm quick Mohsin Khan. Ravi Bishnoi hasn’t been consistent – although he has seven wickets, he averages 41 with an economy rate of 8.22 – but that hasn’t troubled his colleagues. Dushmantha Chameera has zipped through with rapid pace, Holder and Avesh Khan have been among the wickets despite being expensive, and now even Pandya has found his bowling rhythm.

But, while having a plethora of allrounders has provided them with depth and multiple options, their middle order – like Capitals’ – hasn’t been at its best. Only captain KL Rahul and his opening partner Quinton de Kock have been regularly churning out runs for Super Giants.

In their last five matches, their bowlers have successfully defended totals three times – two of which were only 153 and 169 – while they have lost batting second twice in a row. With not much time left, Super Giants, like Capitals, will be eyeing better consistency.

In the news

Khaleel was forced to sit out Capitals’ previous game against Kolkata Knight Riders, with no official word on his availability since. If Khaleel is fit to return, Sakariya’s impressive performance on his Capitals debut may cause some dilemma for them.

Likely XIs

Delhi Capitals: 1 Prithvi Shaw, 2 David Warner, 3 Rishabh Pant (capt, wk), 4 Mitchell Marsh, 5 Lalit Yadav, 6 Axar Patel, 7 Rovman Powell, 8 Shardul Thakur, 9 Kuldeep Yadav, 10 Mustafizur Rahman, 11 Khaleel Ahmed/Chetan Sakariya

Lucknow Super Giants: 1 KL Rahul (capt), 2 Quinton de Kock (wk), 3 Marcus Stoinis, 4 Krunal Pandya, 5 Deepak Hooda, 6 Ayush Badoni/Manish Pandey, 7 Jason Holder, 8 Dushmantha Chameera, 9 Ravi Bishnoi, 10 Mohsin Khan, 11 Avesh Khan

Strategy punt

  • Warner and Bishnoi have been in contrasting form for their respective sides, but give the new ball to the legspinner against the opener in T20s, and you can expect the batter to be in trouble. Bishnoi, who bowls several wrong ‘uns, has dismissed Warner each of the three times they have met. Moreover, those three wickets have come in only six balls.
  • Warner’s opening partner Shaw has also faced only nine deliveries of Bishnoi in the format, although he has taken him for 14 without getting out.

  • de Kock has bashed all of Mustafizur, Axar Patel and Shardul Thakur in T20s. With a strike rate of 161, 160 and 147 against them respectively, he has been dismissed only once each by Axar in eight innings and Thakur in five. With de Kock in fine form already, expect another quick start from him in the powerplay.
  • But Capitals have two options to keep him quiet. If they retain Sakariya, he can possibly help keep de Kock in check, having conceded only 13 runs off 11 balls to him. Plus, there is the confident Kuldeep, with the left-arm wristspinner having got de Kock twice in 14 balls while conceding 20 runs.

    Stats that matter

  • Pant has fallen to pace each of the six times he has been dismissed this season, despite a strike rate of 154 in 56 balls against it, as against not getting out to 71 deliveries of spin bowling.
  • Super Giants have tried out four batters at No. 3, with Manish Pandey’s four innings being the most at the spot for them.
  • The last time Kuldeep had taken as many as 17 wickets in an IPL season was in 2018, when he represented Kolkata Knight Riders.
  • Hooda has come out to bat four times in the first five overs this season, and has hit two half-centuries.
  • Himanshu Agrawal is a sub-editor at ESPNcricinfo


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