Saturday, May 3, 2014
Start time 2000 local (1430 GMT)
The big picture
Four days off is normally a prospect the working man welcomes with glee, but in cricket, especially amid the manic assembly line of matches in the IPL, it threatens the momentum of a team. Delhi Daredevils won their last match, yet a prolonged break has left them in seventh place. The opportunity to climb the rungs arrives in the form of three matches in five days - all at home - the first of which is against Rajasthan Royals.
Daredevils have a history of living and dying by their streaks. In 2009, they knocked off eight of their first 10 opponents to canter into the semi-finals. They enjoyed similar fortunes in 2012, when a string of four victories set up a top-of-the-table finish. Last season, however, was relentlessly bitter as they inaugurated and signed off their campaign with six-match losing streaks.
Pietersen has not yet had a massive innings, but a return to familiar haunts - he strikes at 152.76 and has an IPL century at Feroz Shah Kotla - should provide encouragement. A vestige of rustiness has hampered him, notably early in his innings, but should he break the cobwebs, he poses a threat along with an in-form JP Duminy.
Rajasthan Royals have stuck to a familiar blueprint - an efficient set of batsmen who are certain of their roles and ability, backed up by a motley crew of bowlers who trust their armoury of variation to restrict the opposition. Aside from a shellacking by Maxwell, they have limited oppositions below eight an over comfortably. Against a Daredevils line-up that is yet to find it's groove that record might not be in much danger. Although Shane Watson and co have shown they have enough muscle in the batting and their think-tank knows just how to utilise it.
Form guide (most recent first)
Delhi Daredevils WLLWL Rajasthan Royals WWLLW
Players to watch
Steven Smith faced three balls in a Super Over scenario and never once did he slog. Even when burdened with the match on his shoulders. His response to pressure coupled with swift feet and hectic disposition at the crease means he is suited to finish an innings - his current job - or resurrect one.
Rajasthan Royals have strangled their oppositions in the Powerplay. Royal Challengers Bangalore and Kolkata Knight Riders were kept to under six an over and their slew of slower bowlers take over from there on. Quinton de Kock has the advantage of fast hands and isn't shy of taking risks for the run-rate. Daredevils will hope his progress early on is as smooth as possible and Royals' grip never takes hold.
Stats and trivia
Kevin Pietersen averages 36 in T20 cricket when he is not captain, but when at the helm it dips to 19.
James Faulkner's strike rate of 13.70 is the second best among players who have played more than 20 IPL matches.