New Delhi: Delhi would want to arrest their up-and-down campaign with a dominating performance in round four but will need to down the might of one of the Group B powerhouses Tamil Nadu in a match that begins with the visitors as favourites here at the Feroz Shah Kotla.
Delhi, coming from a draw in their last encounter against Baroda at home, began the season on a losing note when Uttar Pradesh defeated them in Ghaziabad. But the seven-time Ranji Trophy champions came storming back in their next match to beat Odisha with a bonus point. Back at home for the third round, Delhi hosted Baroda but the teams split points - one each - after a draw. That put Delhi on second spot in the group with eight points in their account.
Mithun Manhas has been Delhi's go-to man this season, with back-to-back centuries in the last two matches. His 161 against Odisha, after Delhi bowled the visitors for 143, played the most crucial role in Delhi's solitary win this season so far. He then went on to score 106 against Baroda in the match that offered a run feast.
Veteran allrounder Rajat Bhatia also scored a century in the match against Baroda. He should hold the middle order together along with allrounder Sumit Narwal who has two half-centuries to his credit. But Delhi would want skipper Shikhar Dhawan and Unmukt Chand to show some consistency and provide a solid platform as openers.
Narwal is equally important for Delhi in the bowling department, which shows in the 11 wickets he has taken so far to boot his good batting form. Left-arm pacer Pawan Suyal (nine wickets in two matches) and Parwinder Awana (six wickets in two matches) will be the other wicket-taking hopes for Delhi.
Tamil Nadu, on the other hand, have a number of India internationals in their ranks. Dinesh Karthik, S Badrinath, Abhinav Mukund, L Balaji and the Under-19 sensation Baba Aparajith are names Delhi may find difficult to contend with.
The southern giants didn't have an ideal start to their season, which began with a washout against Odisha. A draw against Karnataka followed, putting Tamil Nadu in a position to pick their game up against Maharashtra in round three. They did exactly that by winning the match by 104 runs, which made them joint second in the group with Delhi at eight points.
Tamil Nadu's batting looked in top form against Karnataka, with their top six batsmen crossing fifty in the first innings. Aparajith (112) and Karthik (154*) got centuries in that innings. However, totals of 276 and 149 proved that wrong in the next match against Maharashtra where the bowlers bailed them out of trouble to register an outright win.
So the top guns need to live up to their reputation against Delhi where early morning starts help pacers get a fair bit of purchase both in the air and off the wicket. Vijay's participation isn't clear as he's away on Test duty. If Vijay is not released, Arun Karthick should take his place in the eleven. On the bowling front, Tamil Nadu will bank on the offbreaks of Malolan Rangarajan who has 10 wickets from two matches, including match-winning seven wickets in the match against Maharashtra. Balaji, who took six wickets in the same match, will lead the pace attack along with Yo Mahesh.
With winter settling in in northern India, morning sessions could hold the key on all four days, but the captain winning the toss would still want to bat first on a wicket that should ease out into a batting track.
Delhi: 1 Shikhar Dhawan (capt), 2 Unmukt Chand, 3 Mohit Sharma, 4 Mithun Manhas, 5 Rajat Bhatia, 6 Puneet Bisht (wk), 7 Manan Sharma, 8 Sumit Narwal, 9 Ashish Nehra, 10 Parvinder Awana, 11 Pawan Suyal
Tamil Nadu: 1 Abhinav Mukund, 2 Murali Vijay, 3 Baba Aparajith, 4 S Badrinath, 5 Dinesh Karthik (wk), 6 R Prasanna, 7 Malolan Rangarajan, 8 Yo Mahesh, 9 L Balaji (capt), 10 Jagannathan Kaushik, 11 Aushik Srinivas