Rajasthan and Delhi brace for knock-out clash
Match factsFriday, May 30
Start time 20.00 (local), 14.30 (GMT)
The Big Picture
The irony of the Indian Premier League's first semi-final is that Delhi have Rajasthan to thank for their place in the final four. Stuck on 15 points after 14 matches, Delhi needed Rajasthan to beat Mumbai in Jaipur and only after Mumbai's final-ball choke was Delhi's spot secured.
Ironic because Rajasthan have lost to only three teams in the IPL - Punjab, in a dead rubber; Mumbai; and Delhi, their semi-final opponents, in their first match of the tournament. Rajasthan were crushed in that encounter at the Feroz Shah Kotla by nine wickets and 29 balls to spare. They settled scores with Delhi during the home game , but that victory too looked improbable until Shane Watson blitzed 74 off 40 balls.
Past IPL form, though, will count for little during the high stakes of a knock-out match and the contest could be decided by which team keeps its cool. Delhi have Glenn McGrath's tremendous experience to fall back on while Virender Sehwag, Gautam Gambhir and Dinesh Karthik were part of the Indian squad that won several close battles during the World Twenty20 in South Africa. Rajasthan, however, will rely on Graeme Smith's experience at the top of the order and the inspirational captaincy of Shane Warne to keep emotions under control and instill self-belief in high-pressure situations.
That they have already played each other twice should leave little room for surprise but, by a quirk of circumstance, Delhi's strong top-order are yet to face Sohail Tanvir, the IPL's best fast bowler. Tanvir was on Pakistan duty in the first encounter and, for the return, was rested to give Dimitri Mascarenhas a chance. Tanvir has been deadly with the new ball and tops both the wickets and economy charts (among those who've bowled at least 10 overs) with 21 scalps while conceding only 5.97 per over.
Tournament positionRajasthan Royals: P14, W11, L3, NRR +0.632
Delhi Daredevils: P14, W7, L6, N/R1, NRR +0.342
Form (last five completed matches, most recent first)Rajasthan Royals: LWWWW
Delhi Daredevils: WWLWL
Watch out for ...
Rajasthan toyed with their line-up for their final league game against Punjab, resting Smith, Swapnil Asnodkar, Tanvir, Ravindra Jadeja and Warne. All five are expected to return for the semi-final. Niraj Patel's excellent form against Mumbai and Punjab might see him edge Mohammad Kaif for a spot.
Rajasthan Royals (probable): 1 Graeme Smith, 2 Swapnil Asnodkar, 3 Yusuf Pathan, 4 Shane Watson, 5 Niraj Patel, 6 Ravindra Jadeja, 7 Mahesh Rawat (wk), 8 Shane Warne (capt), 9 Sohail Tanvir, 10 Siddharth Trivedi, 11 Munaf Patel.
Delhi are likely to leave out Brett Geeves, who played their final league game against Mumbai, and bring back Mohammad Asif, who missed the last three games because of a hand injury. He was seen bowling at the nets on the eve of the semi-final.
Delhi Daredevils (probable): 1 Gautam Gambhir, 2 Virender Sehwag (capt), 3 Shikhar Dhawan, 4 Manoj Tiwary, 5 Tillakaratne Dilshan, 6 Dinesh Karthik (wk), 7 Farveez Maharoof, 8 V Yomahesh, 9 Amit Mishra, 10 Mohammad Asif 11 Glenn McGrath.
Stats and trivia
"I have seen in previous matches that the ball does a bit in the first half of the match and in the second half batting is easier. Both teams have good bowlers and shot selection is important."
Sehwag hints he might prefer to chase at the Wankhede.
"It's been an interesting journey with the Daredevils. Basically, we have been in three finals already to get in to the semi-finals. If that doesn't prepare you for a semi-final, then nothing else will. To get through three must-win games steels the team. It will be a huge advantage for Viru and his guys.
Dennis Lillee, Delhi's cricket advisor on the team's preparations.
"We should have hosted the semi-final instead of playing it at a neutral venue. We have been the best team in the league so far but have not gained any extra advantage. Playing at home would have given us a big advantage. These are some of the things that need to be improved by the IPL authorities next year, especially by allowing the top two sides to host the semi- finals."
Warne, whose team has been unbeaten at the Sawai Mansingh Stadium in Jaipur.
George Binoy is a staff writer at Cricinfo