Battered Punjab host high-flying Daredevils in must-win game

Despite their disappointing outing against a depleted Rising Pune Supergiants, Delhi Daredevils will head into their return leg against Kings XI Punjab at the IS Bindra Stadium in Mohali on Saturday (May 7) as overwhelming favourites. Things have changed drastically since the two teams met last last, with each team having moved to, nearly, the opposite ends of the points table. Delhi, with their tactical blundersin the last home game against Pune, missed a golden opportunity climb to the top of the ladder and consolidate. Nonetheless, they are sitting pretty at third spot with 10 points from their eight concluded games while Punjab are starring down the barrel with just four from as many games.
Both the teams are coming off losses. A second-string Delhi team were restricted to 162 by Pune and succumbed to a seven-wicket defeat while Punjab would take heart from the fact that they stretched table-toppers Kolkata Knight Riders to the last over in a tricky chase of 165.
On the brighter side, the hosts have roped in Hashim Amla as a replacement for injured Shaun Marsh. While in-form Marsh's unfortunate departure would compound the team's middle-order woes, Amla's entry would take care of the opening jitters after Manan Vohra's form seems to have deserted him. Glenn Maxwell fifty, in the chase against Knight Riders, could signal good things but the hosts' biggest concern is the in-different form of David Miller. The hard-hitting South African star was relieved of captaincy duties after a horrendous start but the batsman is yet to leave a mark despite the load-shedding. With just six chances left, it wouldn't come as a surprise if the management decides to drop their star attraction for the all-round services of Farhaan Behardien who has been warming the benches thus far.
Battered and bruised, Punjab have a far-fetched chance of making it to the playoffs. Even if they manage to do the unthinkable, script a remarkable turnaround and win all their remaining matches, the bottom-dwellers will be dependent on a bunch of other results going their way. Delhi, on that account, have an advantage of not only more points, but also a better net run-rate.
The Daredevils have progressed steadily under the astute captaincy of Zaheer Khan and mentor Rahul Dravid. The 'horses for courses' policy adopted by the team has borne fruit, almost on all occasions, with a different man putting their hand up and finishing the job for Delhi. That they have had six different Man of the Match awardees in eight games highlights the team effort that has gone into changing the team's perception from underachievers to one of the most formidable units this season.
The troika of Sanju Smason, Karun Nair and Amit Mishra has been the only constant in Delhi's forever-altering playing XI. The ploy to 'rest' four key players in their previous fixture backfired, but if Delhi have learnt anything from their mistakes, at least three of them Zaheer, Chris Morris and Qunton de Kock should be making a comeback against Kings XI.
Delhi started their upward journey against the same opposition when Amit Mishra's four-wicket haul set them up for a comfortable eight-wicket win and the visitors will be eyeing a similar revival as they look to put their campaign back on the track.
When: Kings XI Punjab vs Delhi Daredevils, Match 36 on May 7 at 20:00 IST
Where: Punjab Cricket Association IS Bindra Stadium, Mohali
What to expect: The tempratures have dropped marginally and the weather is likely to stay pleasant for the weekend game. Dew, however, should not be a factor. The pitch has been laden with runs and the game could be another run-feast.
Team News:
Kings XI Punjab:
Glenn Maxwell and Hashim Amla were amonsgt the few payers who attended the optional net session ahead of Saturday's game. From the looks of it, team's new recruit Amla is all set for his Indian Premier League debut against the Daredevils.
Delhi Daredevils:
After their loss against Pune, the Delhi team landed in Chandigarh in the afternoon on the eve of the game and yet, a bunch of players, in the company of their coaching staff, headed directly to the ground. And if Daredevils' optional net sessions are anything to go by, Mayank Agarwal and Nathan Coulter-Nile could be in the reckoning for the game against Punjab. Zaheer too warmed up and looks fit to resume duties after his break against Supergiants.
Delhi Daredevils: Zaheer Khan (Captain), Khaleel Ahmed, Carlos Brathwaite, Quinton de Kock, Akhil Herwadkar, Shreyas Iyer, Chama Milind, Mohammed Shami, Shahbaz Nadeem, Pawan Negi, Joel Paris, Sanju Samson, Jayant Yadav, Mayank Agarwal, Sam Billings, Nathan Coulter-Nile, Jean-Paul Duminy,Imran Tahir, Mahipal Lomror, Chris Morris, Karun Nair, Rishabh Pant, Pratyush Singh, Pawan Suyal, Amit Mishra
Kings XI Punjab: David Miller, Anureet Singh, Farhaan Behardien, Rishi Dhawan,Mitchell Johnson, Glenn Maxwell, Axar Patel, Mohit Sharma,Pardeep Sahu, Swapnil Singh, Murali Vijay (Captain), Kyle Abbott, Armaan Jaffer, KC Cariappa, Gurkeerat Singh Mann, Nikhil Naik, Wriddhiman Saha, Sandeep Sharma, Marcus Stoinis,Shardul Thakur, Manan Vohra, Hashim Amla

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