Diesel prices have hit an all-time high in Delhi, and the city's IPL team is stuck in yet another low. Reeling from a hat-trick of defeats, including last week's knockout punch, Delhi Daredevils can only battle for pride in their penultimate game on home turf.
Amid thunderstorms of both the literal and figurative kind, Delhi gears up to host Chennai Super Kings, who have already qualified for the playoffs. CSK's most recent win, against leaders Sunrisers Hyderabad, saw quick bowler Deepak Chahar mark his return from injury with a stingy opening spell. Subsequently, Ambati Rayudu smashed an unbeaten maiden IPL hundred and sealed the win in his captain MS Dhoni's company.
As for Daredevils, the saving grace in their surrender to AB de Villiers and Virat Kohli last week came through a Rishabh Pant fifty and the debuts of two youngsters. Sandeep Lamichhane's opening spell made him the toast of the evening on Twitter, while Under-19 World Cup winner Abhishek Sharma wowed with an unbeaten 46.
But if Daredevils are to muster a fight against Dhoni's men, they will need their bowlers to check the run flow in the Powerplay. The most expensive attack in the first six and the middle overs, Daredevils have conceded over 40 runs per wicket during the two phases. Daredevils have conceded 50-plus Powerplay scores 11 times in 12 games this season, a vulnerability waiting to be feasted on by CSK, whose openers have scored the second-most runs of any team this season.
En route to their sixth straight loss, Daredevils ran into an unforgiving Shane Watson and Dhoni who smashed fifties in their combined tally of 129 off 62 balls in Pune. Rayudu's brisk 41 hauled CSK past 200, before debutants Lungi Nigidi and KM Asif shared three top-order wickets and commemorated their IPL initiation with a 13-run victory.
Daredevils, of course, are out of contention for the playoffs. CSK are aiming to seal a top-two place, and plenty will have to go wrong for them not to achieve it. Kolkata Knight Riders are the only team below CSK who can hope to leapfrog them, by finishing level with them on 16 points and pipping them on net run rate. For that to happen, CSK will have to lose both their remaining games, and KKR will have to win their last match, and all three result margins will have to be big. For example, if CSK lose both games by 30 runs each, and KKR win theirs by 53 (assuming totals of 180 in each case for the team batting first), then KKR will sneak ahead.
It's safe to say, therefore, that CSK have all but sealed a top-two position.
Delhi Daredevils: 1 Prithvi Shaw, 2 Jason Roy/Colin Munro, 3 Shreyas Iyer (capt), 4 Rishabh Pant (wk), 5 Abhishek Sharma, 6 Vijay Shankar, 7 Liam Plunkett/ Junior Dala, 8 Amit Mishra, 9 Sandeep Lamichhane, 10 Trent Boult, 11 Shahbaz Nadeem
Chennai Super Kings: 1 Shane Watson, 2 Ambati Rayudu, 3 Suresh Raina, 4 MS Dhoni (capt & wk), 5 Sam Billings, 6 Ravindra Jadeja, 7 Dwayne Bravo, 8 Harbhajan Singh, 9 Karn Sharma, 10 Deepak Chahar/ Shardul Thakur, 11 Lungi Ngidi
Daredevils should be alive to Dhoni's lack of fluency against legspinners this season. In 12 innings, he has managed only 87 runs off 68 balls against them while being dismissed three times. Ravindra Jadeja, meanwhile, has been dismissed twice in four innings by legspinners. Lamichhane and Amit Mishra, therefore, are good options to bowl the bulk of the middle overs, particularly when one of these two is at the crease. Additionally, Mishra's economy rate of 6.9 during the period - the best among Daredevils' bowlers in any single phase - should hold him in good stead.
Stats that matter
Dhoni needs 10 runs to reach 6000 T20 runs, and another 16 runs would take him to 4000 runs in the IPL
Daredevils have tried seven different opening combinations so far, and their openers collectively boast the lowest average (21.9) of all teams this season.
Pant's tournament tally of 582 is the highest by a Daredevils batsman in an IPL season across all editions. Former captain Gautam Gambhir held the record for ten years having amassed 534 runs in the 2008 season.
Want compelling reasons to pick Deepak Chahar? Here you go. CSK's pace contingent has been more effective (economy of 8.99 and average of 30.48) with Chahar in the mix than in the four games he has missed (economy of 9.48 and average of 44.10). His inclusion has also enabled CSK's pace bowlers to take a wicket every 20.4 balls as opposed to one every 27.9 balls in his absence.