Match facts

May 17, 2009
Start time 16.45 (14.45 GMT, 20.15 IST)

Big Picture

Rajasthan Royals are placed fourth on the points table, but with only two more games to play, they still haven't cemented their place in the semi-finals. The simplest permutation would be to win this game and the next, to save relying on the outcomes of other fixtures and net run-rate alternatives. Beat Delhi Daredevils and follow up with another victory in their final league game against the Kolkata Knight Riders and they're through; lose, and the race for that semi-final spot shifts to net run-rates, how the other top teams fare, and plenty of crossed fingers. Considering their opponents have been virtually unstoppable, Rajasthan will need to bring their A-game to the OUTsurance Oval.

Virender Sehwag may still be smarting from the defeat suffered at Centurion in the second week of the tournament where his batsmen were tied down and the bowlers failed to go for the jugular when Rajasthan were faltering. That loss snapped Delhi's winning run at three but now, barring a sweeping drop in form, they are pretty much safe for the semi-finals.

The two teams have had interesting journeys so far: Delhi began in style, winning three in a row, then lost one, won the next, lost again, only to take four on the trot before slipping up against Kings XI Punjab. Rajasthan started poorly, but despite a revival, haven't been able to stitch together a run of victories like the six they managed in 2008. They won three in a row but then dropped two, coming back with an electric last-over success in their last game. Rajasthan haven't been as strong as last season and need to get the right combination. What they can do for starters is analyse that win against Delhi at Centurion, one in which three central figures combined to script perhaps the most amazing turnaround of this tournament.

Form guide (completed matches, most recent first)

Delhi Daredevils: LWWWW
That Delhi have done so well despite Sehwag flopping and missing four games through injury, and Gautam Gambhir having an average tournament, is down to the roles performed by a few clutch players. Delhi have won most of their tight matches and each time someone has stood up to be counted for - Dirk Nannes with his pace and swing, Ashish Nehra with his accurate bowling at the death, and AB de Villiers and Tillakaratne Dilshan with the bat. In 2008, Delhi suffered because of their middle-order blues but Dilshan and de Villiers have been stand-out figures.

Rajasthan Royals: WLLWW
In the absence of two spearheads, Shane Watson and Sohail Tanvir, the relative disappointment of Graeme Smith, and injuries and chucking concerns, Rajasthan have still impressed to stay in the top four. Chalk that down to Shane Warne the captain and Yusuf Pathan the batsman. Yusuf's bat has featured in almost all their wins, and Warne employing his accurate spin at the start of an innings has proved successful. Rajasthan have won four tight games, indicative that old man Warne's genius has enthused yet another rag-tag bunch.

Watch out for

Yusuf Pathan: His last big contribution with the bat was a rollicking unbeaten half-century against Delhi on April 28, and Rajasthan need him to produce an encore. On that occasion Rajasthan were 65 for 5 and needing 80 off nine overs when he walked in. Yusuf's brute strength sealed a remarkable five-wicket win.

Virender Sehwag: Delhi's most destructive batsman - nay, the world's - has been a phantom of himself in South Africa. Sehwag has yet to cross 38 in this tournament - and seven innings have added up to only 107 runs. Not once have the bowlers earned his wicket; each dismissal has been down to poor, ill-conceived shot-making. Sehwag is one batsman who needs time at the crease before the semi-finals. It is time to deliver.

Teams

Delhi dropped the Australian opener David Warner for the last game, and brought in Sri Lankan allrounder Farveez Maharoof. Maharoof flopped with the bat, bowled off the last ball of a Brett Lee wicket-maiden over at the end of Delhi's innings, and served up too many no-balls even though he took two wickets. They may want to try out Warner again in the hope that he, Sehwag and Gambhir all fire. Pradeep Sangwan had a miserable last game, so there could be a recall for Avishkar Salvi or Dirk Nannes, who could also take Maharoof's place.

Delhi Daredevils : (probable) 1 Gautam Gambhir, 2 Virender Sehwag (capt), 3 Tillakaratne Dilshan, 4 AB de Villiers, 5 Dinesh Karthik (wk), 6 Mithun Manhas, 7 Farveez Maharoof, 8 Rajat Bhatia, 9 Daniel Vettori, 10 Pradeep Sangwan/Avishkar Salvi, 11 Ashish Nehra.

Rob Quiney's spirited half-century as opener means he will stay on, though doubts linger on Johan Botha, who jumped into the game right after being allowed to resume bowling. He didn't get a wicket, which puts his place under pressure from the likes of Tyron Henderson. Siddharth Chitnis, a bowler, didn't turn his arm over and failed when promoted to No. 5 so he's unlikely to get another look-in. Swapnil Asnodkar could take his place.

Rajasthan Royals: (probable): 1 Graeme Smith, 2 Rob Quiney, 3 Swapnil Asnodkar, 4 Yusuf Pathan, 5 Ravindra Jadeja, 6 Naman Ojha (wk), 7 Johan Botha/Tyron Henderson, 8 Abhishek Raut, 9 Shane Warne (capt), 10 Siddharth Trivedi, 11 Munaf Patel.

Stats and trivia

  • Sehwag, despite playing only seven innings and failing to ignite, has the highest strike-rate for Delhi - 152.85.
  • Nehra is joint second on this season's highest wicket-takers tally with 16 at 17.43.
  • The opening stand of 135 between Smith and Naman Ojha is the best of the tournament.
  • Rajasthan are the only team to cross 200 in 2009. Their 211 for 4 is the best score this season.

Head-to-head record

Delhi and Rajasthan played each other thrice last season. Delhi won the first encounter easily by nine wickets, but lost the next two. Rajasthan clinched a home victory by three wickets in the second league game before winning the semi-final by a whopping 105 runs in Mumbai. In their previous match this season a brutal innings from Yusuf, a more sedate but no less important knock by Smith and another typically inspired tactical tweak from Warne downed Delhi.

Jamie Alter is a senior sub-editor at Cricinfo