Big pictureDelhi Capitals and Sunrisers Hyderabad haven't met this season yet. Capitals are currently placed seventh and Sunrisers fourth, with only two points separating the two sides. In fact, Sunrisers are fourth only because of a superior net run-rate over two other teams with the same points. Capitals, on the other hand, have the best net run-rate among all teams but can do nothing with it for now.
There is a pattern in their journey so far this season too: Sunrisers lost two, won five and lost two again, while Capitals have struggled to win two in a row despite nine matches into the league stage. However, their captains are as contrasting as fire and ice, with their strike rates this year speaking as much: Rishabh Pant's 149 is as many as 50 rungs ahead of Kane Williamson's.
Capitals' openers have often led the way this year, and when they both failed to fire in their previous match - against Lucknow Super Giants - their middle order fell seven short of completing the job, as Pant mustered 44, only his joint-highest score this season having got into the 40s thrice.
But if Capitals were to note the positives, Pant's middle-order colleagues responded fairly well - Mitchell Marsh, Rovman Powell and Axar Patel all made handy contributions - while Shardul Thakur was among wickets with the ball.
And while Pant's counterpart Williamson made 47 against Chennai Super Kings, he will be worried with his side losing back-to-back matches: first failing to defend 195 in a last-ball thriller, and then falling 14 short of chasing 203, another near-miss despite a late assault, as their usually-dependable bowling unit couldn't deliver.
With time running out and points more challenging to come by, the tournament is heading towards its business end, where a fine line could separate the sides and decide their fate. Sunrisers know they can't afford to fall even excruciatingly short at this stage; Capitals are aware that one win could put them into serious consideration for the playoffs.
There are exciting times ahead.
In the newsT Natarajan was suspected to have a niggle against Super Kings, although what the injury was wasn't clear as he left the field after bowling one over in the early exchanges and then returned to bowl three at the death. Also, Washington Sundar split his webbing for the second time this season, forcing him off the field too. However, no official update about their availability has been heard since from Sunrisers' camp.
Sunrisers have signed Sushant Mishra as replacement for the injured Saurabh Dubey.
Likely XIsDelhi Capitals: 1 Prithvi Shaw, 2 David Warner, 3 Mitchell Marsh, 4 Rishabh Pant (capt& wk), 5 Lalit Yadav, 6 Rovman Powell, 7 Axar Patel, 8 Shardul Thakur, 9 Kuldeep Yadav, 10 Mustafizur Rahman, 11 Chetan Sakariya
Sunrisers Hyderabad: 1 Kane Williamson (capt), 2 Abhishek Sharma, 3 Rahul Tripathi, 4 Aiden Markram, 5 Nicholas Pooran (wk), 6 Shashank Singh, 7 Washington Sundar/J Suchith, 8 Bhuvneshwar Kumar, 9 Marco Jansen, 10 Umran Malik, 11 T Natarajan/Kartik Tyagi
- Sunrisers' veteran new-ball bowler Bhuvneshwar Kumar holds a clear advantage over Capitals' in-form opening pair of David Warner and Prithvi Shaw. Bhuvneshwar has dismissed Warner once while restricting him to just 13 runs in 19 balls in all T20 cricket. He has got Shaw twice while giving away only 35 runs off as many deliveries to him. Warner and Shaw are Capitals' top-two run-getters for the season. In fact, their partnership has averaged more than 48 in seven innings at a brilliant average run rate of 10.23. So the battle between Bhuvneshwar and the left-right pair could turn out to be intriguing, especially in the powerplay.
- Rahul Tripathi has batted at a strike rate of 172 this season, the highest among all Sunrisers' batters with a minimum of 180 runs. But Capitals have a number of options to keep him quiet. First is Axar Patel, who has given just seven off 11 deliveries; next comes Mustafizur Rahman, who has kept Tripathi to a strike rate of 40; Chetan Sakariya limits him to 83; and finally Shardul Thakur, who has restricted Tripathi to a strike rate of 117. But Tripathi has had more success against Kuldeep Yadav, Capitals' highest wicket-taker this season, having cracked 34 off 14 deliveries against him. So if Sunrisers' No. 3 can see off some potentially nervous moments early, he might then choose to attack the left-arm wristspinner later.
Stats that matter
- Ironically, Capitals' opener Warner is the highest run-getter for Sunrisers in IPL history, with 4014 runs at an average of 49.6.
- Umran Malik has never played against Delhi Capitals. Rather, he has not dismissed any of their top eight batters from Capitals' previous match this season even in the Syed Mushtaq Ali Trophy. What adds more intrigue is the fact that all 26 of Malik's T20 wickets have been of different batters.
- Pant has 466 runs, has hit 22 sixes and smashed 128* against Sunrisers, all of them the most for him against any IPL opposition.
- Abhishek Sharma can jump from fifth to third among the highest run-getters this season if he manages to score 46 or more against Capitals.
Himanshu Agrawal is a sub-editor at ESPNcricinfo