Big picture

Delhi Capitals are threatening to become the most consistent side in the IPL. They have a solid all-conditions side, which doesn't get affected by the event moving from the UAE to India at the start of the year and then from India to the UAE mid-tournament. In 2019, they finished third and lost the second qualifier; in 2020 they were second on the league table and lost the final. Many a thing around them has changed, but they are there at the top of the league table, with practically the same core.

Up against them are Chennai Super Kings, who have shed inhibitions not through a spirit of adventure but by installing fail-safes around fail-safes. They attacked more than any other side with the bat, which took them to the qualifiers before any other side. Despite the three losses at the end, despite Capitals' two wins against them in the league stages, Super Kings remain a dangerous side.

The team that wins goes straight into the final, the team that loses gets another shot at making the final when it faces the winner of the match between teams placed third and fourth. Capitals will be happy they are playing in Dubai, a venue where they have beaten Super Kings this year, a venue where they have won two chasing and lost one defending in a last-ball finish.

Both teams will want to chase because dew does play a part in Dubai, also the venue of the final.

In the news

Capitals, who have been playing with just the three overseas players, are still waiting on the fitness of Marcus Stoinis. Their captain Rishabh Pant sounded hopeful on Friday that Stoinis will be available on Sunday and will take the place of Ripal Patel. With Sam Curran out, Super Kings' seam-bowling allrounder will surely be Dwayne Bravo. The only decision they might have to make is between Suresh Raina and Robin Uthappa, with the latter being the favourite. Read on to know why.

Likely XIs

Delhi Capitals: 1 Prithvi Shaw, 2 Shikhar Dhawan, 3 Rishabh Pant (capt & wk), 4 Shreyas Iyer, 5 Shimron Hetmyer, 6 Marcus Stoinis/ Ripal Patel, 7 Axar Patel, 8 R Ashwin, 9 Kagiso Rabada, 10 Anrich Nortje, 11 Avesh Khan

Chennai Super Kings: 1 Ruturaj Gaikwad, 2 Faf du Plessis, 3 Moeen Ali, 4 Ambati Rayudu, 5 Robin Uthappa/ Suresh Raina, 6 MS Dhoni (capt & wk), 7 Ravindra Jadeja, 8 Dwayne Bravo, 9 Shardul Thakur, 10 Deepak Chahar, 11 Josh Hazlewood

Strategy punt

  • In the last league match, R Ashwin bowled just one over, which meant Ripal Patel had to bowl one as late as the 16th. The reason behind it was that Royal Challengers Bangalore had only one left-hand batter, who was dismissed early. Ashwin has dismissed only two right-hand batters this IPL and has gone at 8.1 an over against them as opposed to 6.3 against left-hand batters.
  • If they choose Uthappa over Raina, Super Kings will have a clutch of right-hand batters who could similarly dissuade Pant from using Ashwin in the middle overs. Having said that, one of the two right-hand batters Ashwin has dismissed this year happens to be Uthappa. Ashwin bowled all four of his overs against Super Kings last time, but he had either Moeen Ali, a left-hand batter, or MS Dhoni, in a defensive mode, to bowl at all times.
  • Left-arm spin is not a great match-up against Ruturaj Gaikwad and Faf du Plessis, but Capitals could look for an over of Axar Patel in the powerplay just because both are right-hand batters. In the last match, it brought them du Plessis' wicket.
  • Stats that matter

    • Of the 14 bowlers who have bowled at least 60 balls at the death in this IPL, Kagiso Rabada's 10.84 is the worst economy rate. Avesh Khan, who has bowled 20 death overs to Rabada's 13, has gone at 9.15 an over.
    • Capitals have hit the fewest sixes of all teams by a distance, 54. Super Kings are comfortable at the top with 100. Super Kings have scored 1412 runs in the boundaries, the highest. Capitals have 1172, the second-lowest.
    • Of the ten night matches in Dubai this year, seven have been won by sides chasing. Super Kings are one of the three teams that have managed to successfully defend.
    • Capitals have beaten Super Kings in their last four encounters, but when they last met in a playoff, Super Kings won and knocked Capitals out.
    • Sidharth Monga is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo