Delhi keep an eye on the pitch, and Warne
Greg Shipperd, the Delhi Daredevils coach, and Virender Sehwag, the captain, have singled out the Wankhede pitch as the deciding factor on the result of the first semi-final. Shipperd also felt the par score would be "anywhere above 150" and had no doubt, just like the majority of the IPL games during the league phase, the semis too will go to the wire.
"From what we have seen of the Mumbai pitch, it does a bit, especially in the first half," Sehwag said. "Teams would like to win the toss and field first to give their bowlers a chance to exploit the condition."
Delhi's chances of qualifying for the semis hung in the balance after they had completed their allotted 14 games, leaving them to fight it out with Mumbai Indians and Chennai Super Kings for a place in the final four. Chennai's victory over the Deccan Chargers proved the most decisive result in the final stages of the tournament as it cleared the path for Chennai and Delhi to go through.
Sehwag conceded that Delhi "needed some luck at the end to get through" and Shipperd felt, keeping the contrasting ways in which both Delhi and Rajasthan had arrived to the knockout stage, that both teams were evenly poised.
"It's 50-50", Shipperd said. "The wicket will play a major role in how the game unfolds. We have fought hard and have been competitive throughout our 14 games and made sure our losses were tight ones".
Commenting on the quality of the opposition, Shipperd said Rajasthan were no "one-man band", but pointed out that Shane Warne would surely try to create hazards.
"As far as Rajasthan goes Shane Warne will once again be a big factor," Shipperd said. "He can create a contest out of each ball, the talking, the rearrangement of the field and that's something we need to adapt to quickly. Most teams have a defined sort of strategies at the end of the day and it's not just a one-man band. There are other internationals in that side like Graeme Smith, Sohail Tanvir and Shane Watson who have all done an outstanding job in addition to the impressive local boys. That's why they are on top of the table."
To counter the strong opposition, Shipperd said his team had enough arsenal of their own, with the opening pair of Sehwag and Gautam Gambhir capable of destroying the best bowling attacks and thought the highlight of the game would be the head-to-head battle between the pair and Sohail Tanvir, the leading wicket-taker of the tournament with 21 wickets. Gambhir, incidentally, is the second highest run-getter with 523 runs. The other positives have been their brilliant fielding and the bowling, led by the inimitable Glenn McGrath.
"Our opening partnerships have brought us a long way and also our bowling has performed as a group," Shipperd said. "If they have Warne we have McGrath and it is a big game and he will play a big hand surely tomorrow. As far as fielding goes we have been one of the better sides with our players setting very, very high standards in catching and in the outfield. If you put all of this together it has been an incredible effort to reach so far."
He said Delhi's priority would be to attack as a group to outdo the winning unit that Warne has assembled. "We need to put as much pressure on Rajasthan, let it batting, bowling or fielding and find the weakness in their group then we can capitalise which will play to our advantage."
Nagraj Gollapudi is an assistant editor at Cricinfo