Since pulling off a Super Over heist against the Kings XI Punjab in their opening game, the Delhi Capitals have shown an indomitable spirit. They are currently second on the points table with six wins from eight games but their journey has been anything but smooth.
Right at the start, their main spinner R Ashwin had to miss two games after hurting his shoulder. Then Amit Mishra's tournament was cut short with a finger injury. Ishant Sharma played just one match before an abdominal muscle tear ruled him out. But the Capitals dealt with those blows so effectively that the absence of such key players was never felt.
However, the latest roadblock - a hamstring injury to Rishabh Pant - is proving a bit trickier to handle. With no other Indian wicketkeeper in the squad, the Capitals have been forced to play Alex Carey, which means there is no place for Shimron Hetmyer in the side. His replacement, Ajinkya Rahane, managed 15 off 15 and 2 off 9 in the last two games, of which the Capitals lost the first one and somehow sneaked in a win in the second.
On Saturday evening, they will be facing the Chennai Super Kings, who after numerous permutations and combinations finally seem to have figured out their best XI. The side that played in their last game, against the Sunrisers Hyderabad, had seven bowling options while boasting a batting line-up with no tail whatsoever.
Their approach too was fresh and positive with Sam Curran opening the innings to take advantage of the powerplay and MS Dhoni coming in at No. 5. The result - a third win in eight games - ensured they didn't slip too far behind in the playoffs race. A win against the Capitals would provide further momentum to their campaign.
In the news
Before the Royals' game, Pant underwent a fitness test but wasn't able to clear it. The Capitals, who are in a comfortable position on the points table, may not want to rush his comeback.
Shreyas Iyer too had hurt his shoulder against the Royals and was off the field for most of the chase. At the post-match presentation, Shikhar Dhawan said though Iyer was in pain, he was able to move his shoulder. It's understood he is likely to be available for Saturday's game.
Prithvi Shaw smashed 64 off 43 balls to power the Capitals to 175 for 3. Kagiso Rabada then picked up 3 for 26 as the Capitals' bowlers restricted the Super Kings to 131 for 7 to script a 44-run win.
Delhi Capitals: 1 Prithvi Shaw, 2 Shikhar Dhawan, 3 Ajinkya Rahane, 4 Shreyas Iyer (capt), 5 Marcus Stoinis, 6 Alex Carey (wk), 7 Axar Patel, 8 R Ashwin, 9 Kagiso Rabada, 10 Tushar Deshpande, 11 Anrich Nortje
Chennai Super Kings: 1 Faf du Plessis, 2 Sam Curran, 3 Shane Watson, 4 Ambati Rayudu, 5 MS Dhoni (capt, wk), 6 Ravindra Jadeja, 7 Dwayne Bravo, 8 Deepak Chahar, 9 Piyush Chawla, 10 Shardul Thakur, 11 Karn Sharma
Watson may or may not open for the Super Kings but expect the Capitals to match him up against Axar Patel. The left-arm spinner has dismissed Watson six times in eight T20 innings while conceding only 44 runs off 43 balls.
Deepak Chahar has dismissed Shaw four times in five T20 innings, the most by any bowler. In those five knocks, Shaw has managed only 38 off 37 balls against the seamer. Chahar has also got Ajinkya Rahane out thrice in three innings while giving away just 19 runs off 16 balls. Against Dhawan too, he has impressive numbers - 35 runs off 44 balls with one dismissal. All that sets up an interesting powerplay battle.
Stats that matter
The Super Kings have dominated the head-to-head contests by winning 15 of the 22 games between the two sides.
Teams batting first have won five out of seven games played in Sharjah this IPL.
The Super Kings' scoring rate of 7.2 in the powerplay is the worst in IPL 2020.
Seventeen wickets taken by the Capitals spinners so far in the tournament are second only to the Royal Challengers Bangalore's spin unit, who have 18. The Capitals spinners have a combined average of 19.3 and an economy of 6.3. No other spin attack has an average below 25 or an economy under seven.
In the Capitals' six wins, they have had six different Player-of-the-Match award winners - Marcus Stoinis, Shaw, Iyer, Patel, Ashwin and Anrich Nortje. Five of their batsmen have more than 150 runs this IPL and four of their bowlers have taken more than seven wickets.
Rabada has 49 wickets from 26 games in the IPL. The record for the fastest to 50 wickets in the tournament belongs to Sunil Narine, who reached there in 32 games.