After an impressive inaugural season where they made it to the playoffs, Lucknow Super Giants will play at their home ground for the first time, with the IPL returning to the tradition home-and-away format.
Last year, Super Giants' middle order looked brittle at times, so at the auction, they bought Nicholas Pooran. How much they value his batting is clear from the price they paid - INR 16 crore (USD 1.95 million approx.) - for him despite already having two wicketkeeping options in KL Rahul and Quinton de Kock in their first-choice XI.
Super Giants' squad is brimming with allrounders, which is a big advantage. However, left-arm quick Mohsin Khan's shoulder injury, in head coach Andy Flower's words, is "a blow" for the team. Moreover, Flower is not expecting him to be available at all this season.
Delhi Capitals are without their regular captain, Rishabh Pant, this year. But in David Warner, they have a leader who has won the IPL previously, in 2016 with Sunrisers Hyderabad. Prithvi Shaw and Mitchell Marsh's batting form also bode well for them. In fact, Marsh is expected to bowl as well this season.
While Capitals still lack a genuine allrounder, their head coach Ricky Ponting is confident the Impact Player rule will help them plug that hole.
Super Giants will be without de Kock, who will join the squad on April 3, after South Africa's ODI series against Netherlands is over.
Capitals' South African players - Anrich Nortje and Lungi Ngidi - will miss Saturday's match too. Mustafizur Rahman, who was rested for the final T20I against Ireland in Chattogram on Friday, tweeted that he was flying to join the squad on Saturday, when Capitals play the evening game in Lucknow.
Toss and Impact Player strategy
Lucknow Super Giants
Super Giants could start with three overseas players, irrespective of whether they bat first or bowl. If they bat first, their three overseas players could be Kyle Mayers, Pooran and Marcus Stoinis. In the second innings, Mark Wood can come in as an Impact Player for a batter, say Ayush Badoni.
Probable bat-first XI: 1 KL Rahul (capt & wk), 2 Kyle Mayers, 3 Deepak Hooda, 4 Nicholas Pooran, 5 Marcus Stoinis, 6 Ayush Badoni, 7 Krunal Pandya, 8 Prerak Mankad, 9 Jaydev Unadkat, 10 Avesh Khan, 11 Ravi Bishnoi
If they bowl first, they could start with Mayers, Stoinis and Wood, with Pooran replacing Wood in the chase.
Probable bowl-first XI: 1 KL Rahul (capt & wk), 2 Kyle Mayers, 3 Deepak Hooda, 4 Marcus Stoinis, 5 Ayush Badoni, 6 Krunal Pandya, 7 Prerak Mankad, 8 Jaydev Unadkat, 9 Avesh Khan, 10 Mark Wood, 11 Ravi Bishnoi
In Pant's absence, Sarfaraz Khan is likely to keep wicket. He had donned the big gloves in three matches during the latest Syed Mushtaq Ali Trophy as well.
If Mustafizur is not available, it weakens Capitals' death bowling. To counter that, they may beef up their batting by having four overseas batters in their XI. Ishant Sharma could be the Impact Player and replace Shaw when they bowl.
Probable bat-first XI: 1 David Warner (capt), 2 Prithvi Shaw, 3 Mitchell Marsh, 4 Rilee Rossouw, 5 Sarfaraz Khan (wk), 6 Rovman Powell, 7 Axar Patel, 8 Aman Khan/Kamlesh Nagarkoti, 9 Kuldeep Yadav, 10 Chetan Sakariya, 11 Khaleel Ahmed
If they are bowling first, Ishant starts, with Shaw replacing him in the chase.
But if Mustafizur is available, Ishant sits out, and Lalit Yadav replaces Powell. In that scenario, Mustafizur could share the Impact Player role with Shaw. That, though, would also mean three left-arm seamers in the side, to go with two left-arm spinners.
Stats that matter
Since the start of 2021, Rahul's powerplay strike rate in the IPL is just 109.73. He picks up as the innings progresses, scoring at 149.09 in the middle phase and 207.14 at the death.
In the same time period, Rahul hasn't been able to score freely against left-arm fingerspinners: a strike rate of 111.46 even though he has a healthy average of 35.00. Capitals can use Axar Patel to tie him down. Against Axar, Rahul has managed only 22 runs off 34 balls while getting out twice.
In contrast, Pooran has smashed Axar for 30 runs off nine balls without any dismissals. Pooran can be equally destructive against pace as well. In fact, he is one of only three batters in IPL history with 200-plus runs at a strike rate of above 150 against both pace and spin. Andre Russell and Virender Sehwag are the other two.
Lucknow has hosted six T20Is to date - teams batting first have won five of those. The only time a chasing team won, Hardik Pandya called the pitch "a shocker". In that game, New Zealand scored 99 for 8 batting first, and India chased it down on the penultimate ball of the match. During the 2022-23 Syed Mushtaq Ali Trophy, Lucknow had hosted 14 games. Teams struggled to post big totals then as well.