Can Pune keep Delhi winless?
Sunday, April 17
Start time 1600 (1030 GMT)
Pune Warriors and Delhi Daredevils are at opposite ends of the IPL 2011 table. Pune are the only side yet to lose a game, while Delhi are the only ones yet to register a win. Virender Sehwag's men will be desperate for their first points on Sunday, but it won't be easy against what is arguably the most complete Twenty20 outfit in the tournament.
Jesse Ryder and Graeme Smith form a free-spirited opening combination for Pune, while Yuvraj Singh and Robin Uthappa are probably the most dangerous Indian middle-order batsmen in this format. But Pune's real strength lies in the lesser-knows who complete the side. Mithun Manhas and Mohnish Mishra are not big names, but have played nerveless hands under pressure. Alfonso Thomas, Wayne Parnell and Shrikant Wagh have been dangerous with the new ball, stunning their opponents with early wickets. Can Delhi's reputed top order tame them?
The odds are stacked against Sehwag and Co., given their indifferent form and the spicy nature of the DY Patil track. Sehwag himself may have to take on extra responsibility, like he did when he played out a maiden over from the marauding Lasith Malinga, in the game against Mumbai Indians. David Warner was in good touch against Rajasthan Royals, while Venugopal Rao promises stability lower down. Can Sehwag and Aaron Finch turn the tide as well? Though the batting has been patchy, Delhi's bigger worry is on the bowling front. If Morne Morkel doesn't find some support quickly, Delhi's search for their first win may not end at the DY Patil Stadium.
Ashok Dinda was all over the place against Rajasthan, and might make way for Umesh Yadav in the Delhi XI. Given the lack of solidity in the middle order, Delhi may consider bringing in either James Hopes or Andrew McDonald to replace Roelof van der Merwe.
Pune, on the other hand, are unlikely to fiddle with their winning combination. Graeme Smith and legspinner Rahul Sharma, who were both injured after colliding while attempting a catch against Kochi Tuskers Kerala earlier this week, are both recovering well, though a final call on their availability will only be taken on Sunday.
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In the spotlight
Can Irfan Pathan stop teasing his fans and just let them know if he still has it in him to swing the ball consistently? Against Mumbai, in his first game after a long injury lay-off, he began by bending those banana inswingers into the right-hand batsmen. They weren't as lethal as they were back in 2003-04, but they held promise. Yet, at the first sign of trouble against Rajasthan, in Delhi's second game, he reverted to listless offcutters, with the wicketkeeper standing up to the stumps. Which Irfan will turn up against Pune?
Yuvraj Singh the captain has so far been a revelation. In the first game, one could sense his involvement from the way he ran in from the dug-out at the strategic time-out to caution Manhas about Piyush Chawla's deceptive googly. Against Kochi Tuskers Kerala, despite Mohnish's eagerness to bat up the order, Yuvraj convinced him to play at No. 6 and the batsman delivered in a tough chase. While the captain continues to make the right calls, will Yuvraj the batsman also make an impression against Delhi?
- In 15 games so far this season, only four have been won by teams batting first. Pune chased in both their wins, while Delhi batted first in both their losses
- Four Pune bowlers figure in the six most economical bowlers so far this season. Morne Morkel is fourth in the list
"We will have our plans for Sehwag. I hope he takes it easy against us tomorrow"
Yuvraj Singh knows who the biggest threat in the Delhi side is
"Good performances here in the IPL could go a long way in securing a place in the national side. There are a lot of big tours coming up. So I want to do well and find a place."
Umesh Yadav hopes to use the IPL as a stepping stone to bigger things
Nitin Sundar is a sub-editor at ESPNcricinfo© ESPN Sports Media Ltd.