Preview: It will be a test of character and battle for supremacy when Delhi Daredevils and Gujarat Lions, two of the most impressive teams of IPL 9, lock horns against each other at the Feroze Shah Kotla ground in New Delhi on Wednesday.
Barring one bad day in office, both Daredevils and Gujarat Lions had a near perfect campaign so far in the tournament.
While new outfit Gujarat Lions are lying in the second spot in the eight-team standings with eight points from five matches, the Daredevils are a place below in the third position with six points from four games.
After the loss to Kolkata Knight Riders by nine wickets in their tournament opener, the Daredevils bounced back strongly riding on collective efforts to comfortably beat Kings XI Punjab, Royal Challengers Bangalore and Mumbai Indians in their next three games to surge ahead in the points table.
Gujarat Lions too had a dream debut in their opening IPL season, having won three consecutive games -- against Kings XI Punjab, Rising Pune Supergiants and Mumbai Indians -- before slumping to their only loss against Sunrisers Hyderabad. The Suresh Raina-led side, however, came back strongly to get the better of a star-studded Royal Challengers Bangalore in their last game.
And come Wednesday. both Daredevils and Gujarat Lions will be desperate to upstage each other to prove their supremacy.
After the flop show in their opening match, Daredevils batting came to the party in the last two games against RCB and Mumbai Indians. In the first match against Kolkata Knight Riders, the Daredevils got all-out for 98 and then went untested in the second game as the target was a meagre 112.
In the game against RCB, South African Quinton de Kock struck the first century of IPL 9 scoring 108 off just 51 deliveries to guide Daredevils to a seven wicket win while chasing an imposing 192-run target.
Against defending champions Mumbai Indians, it was the turn of young Sanju Samson (60) and JP Duminy (49 not out) who rose to the occasion to take the Zaheer Khan led side to 164 for four, a total which they defended to win by 10 runs. Daredevils coach Rahul Dravid would be happy with the fact that besides De Kock, other batsmen in Karun Nair, Samson, Duminy also returned among runs.
Carlos Brathwaite, who became the toast of the cricketing world after hitting England's Ben Stokes for four consecutive sixes to win the ICC World T20 final for the West Indies, is again likely to sit out as Daredevils are not expected to tinker their winning combination much.
On the bowling front, Daredevils have experience with captain Zaheer leading the pack and showing that there is still plenty left in his armoury. Both Zaheer and Chris Morris have been immaculate at the death overs against Mumbai Indians, but it is the form of fit-again Mohammad Shami which would be a cause of concern for the side.
If Zaheer and Morris were impressive at the death against Mumbai Indians, it is Amit Mishra, regarded as India's best leg-spinner currently, and South African Imran Tahir who set the platform for the win with their brilliant spell in the middle overs.
On the other hand, Gujarat Lions' has been a fairytale story so far in the tournament. The debutants started their maiden journey with impressive performance in first three games, but suffered a loss against Sunrisers Hyderabad before getting their campaign back on tract with a win over RCB in their last game.
The Lions would be eyeing another win on Wednesday which will enable them to upstage Kolkata Knight Riders from top of the points table.
The Lions batting revolves around Dwayne Smith, Aaron Finch and Brendon McCullum, followed by the likes of Raina, Dwayne Bravo and Dinesh Karthik.
McCullum is yet to show his full potential, even as Finch had struck three back-to-back half centuries in first three games, failing only against Sunrisers Hyderabad. With the Lions opening pair of Finch and McCullum clicking just once in four matches so far, it prompted the team management to rope in Smith in the last game against RCB, dropping Finch down the order.
The move worked as McCullum and Smith (32) stitched a quickfire 47 runs for the opening stand to set the stage for the 181-run chase and they are expected to persist with the same combination tomorrow.
Dinesh Karthik too came to the party in the last game, scoring a 39-ball unbeaten 50 while McCullum smashed 42 off just 24 deliveries.
The two all-rounders in Bravo and Ravindra Jadeja are also expected to come in handy.
But it is the team's bowling department which looks little weak as James Faulkner and Praveen Kumar are yet to sparkle.
The Teams (From):
Delhi Daredevils: Zaheer Khan (C), Quinton de Kock, JP Duminy, Mayank Agarwal, Shreyas Iyer, Carlos Brathwaite, Karun Nair, Pawan Negi, Rishabh Pant, Sanju Samson, Pawan Suyal, Jayant Yadav, Chris Morris, Sam Billings, Nathan Coulter-Nile, Imran Tahir, Mahipal Lomor, Chama Milind, Amit Mishra, Mohammed Shami, Shahbaz Nadeem, Khaleel Ahmed, Akhil Herwadkar, Pratyush Singh.
Gujarat Lions: Suresh Raina (C), Amit Mishra, Dwayne Bravo, James Faulkner, Aaron Finch, Ravindra Jadeja, Dwayne Smith, Dale Styne, Pravin Tambe, Shadab Jakati, Dinesh Karthik, Dhaval Kulkarni, Praveen Kumar, Brandon McCullum, Pradeep Sangwan, Sarabjit Ladda, Akshdeep Nath, Jaydev Shah, Ishan Kishan, Paras Dogra, Eklavya Dwivedi, Shivil Kaushik, Umang Sharma and Andrew Tye.
Match Starts: 8pm onwards.