Pune Warriors India would very much like to repeat the performance of their last match against Delhi Daredevils when they face their North Indian rivals in the return league match of IPL 5 at home on Tuesday. Delhi are the table-toppers going into this battle and would appreciate if it stays that way, but after getting beaten by the Sourav Ganguly-led Pune at the Kotla, Virender Sehwag's men would have realised that everyday is not a Sunday.
Delhi have won four of their six matches so far and so have Pune, but having played one match more than Delhi. So the winner will go clear of the other on points at the end of this match, which could prove vital in the final play-off standings.
For Delhi, as of now things look ruddy in all the departments, largely due to the positive intent the team has showcased so far. Undoubtedly, they have been bolstered by Kevin Pietersen and Mahela Jayawardene, both of whom have the ability to turn a match on its head. The icing on the cake was Virender Sehwag's strokeplay in the last match, which gives them an upper hand in the return battle with Pune.
Delhi opened with Jayawardene in the last match but it could remain a one-off thing, considering the mammoth total they had to chase. So in all probability, Naman Ojha will return to open with Sehwag, allowing Jayawardene to strengthen the middle order. Their only batting worry seems to be Ross Taylor, who looks quite restrained after coming back from an arm fracture. However, he should retain his place until David Warner joins the team after Australia end their tour of the West Indies in a week’s time from now.
Barring the last match, where Delhi allowed Pune to rack up 192 runs, their bowling too has faired pretty well. Morne Morkel has been among the season's top wicket-takers, Umesh Yadav has kept things tight at his end and left-arm spinner Shahbaz Nadeem has been a revelation so far. All they need is someone like Irfan Pathan to step up and choke the opposition for runs in the middle overs, even if he is not taking wickets consistently.
Pune, despite an up-and-down run, have shown the stomach for fight, which is something you would expect with Ganguly at the helm of affairs. Where Pune has been lucky is that someone or the other raises his hand to take the team home. If Jesse Ryder does it in one match, Steven Smith takes the baton in the other. And when chips are seriously down, captain Ganguly takes matters in his hand, as he did with his jig at the Kotla.
Ryder and Uthappa as openers make for an ideal combination, though Ganguly has only had one significant innings so far in the middle. Steven Smith has proved his worth as a more-than-handy finisher. On the bowling front, experienced campaigners Ashish Nehra and Murali Kartik have had just one off day so far, and the addition of South African pacer Alfonso Thomas has provided some edge to the attack. What remains to be seen is whether Ganguly persists with Nehra or brings Ashok Dinda back in if he were to recover from his side strain.
Playing at home, Pune will have the crowd at their back, but with a batting track in the offing and Delhi batsmen hungry as wolves, it could turn out to be a slugfest between men with the willows.
Delhi Daredevils: 1 Virender Sehwag (capt), 2 Naman Ojha, 3 Kevin Pietersen, 4 Mahela Jayawardene, 5 Ross Taylor, 6 Yogesh Nagar, 7 Irfan Pathan, 8 Morne Morkel, 9 Umesh Yadav, 10 Shahbaz Nadeem, 11 Ajit Agarkar
Pune Warriors: 1 Robin Uthappa (wk), 2 Jesse Ryder, 3 Sourav Ganguly (capt), 4 Steve Smith, 5 Manish Pandey, 6 Angelo Mathews, 7 Mithun Manhas, 8 Murali Kartik, 9 Alfonso Thomas, 10 Ashish Nehra, 11 Rahul Sharma