IPL: In-form Delhi faces tough KKR test

Looking for a hat-trick of victories this season of the Indian Premier League, Delhi Daredevils and Kolkata Knight Riders face-off in what promises to be a battle of equals on Monday afternoon.

Delhi Daredevils has posted strong back-to-back wins.   -  Sandeep Saxena

Looking for a hat-trick of victories this season of the Indian Premier League, Delhi Daredevils and Kolkata Knight Riders face-off in what promises to be a battle of equals on Monday afternoon.

Delhi is riding on two emphatic victories, separated by six days, while Kolkata’s successive triumphs came in the space of less than 48 hours.

With a temperatures hovering around 40 degrees, a 4 pm start at the Ferozshah Kotla ground, will be tough on the players and their supporters. Kolkata, perhaps the only franchisee with a pan-India appeal, can expect thousands from the stands to back its cause.

Kolkata could well have been the only team with an all-win record had Mumbai Indians not pulled off a sensational result owing to the late heroics of Nitish Rana and Hardik Pandya, who took turns to use the long handle.

In its other three games, Kolkata looked in control, with skipper Gautam Gambhir picking up the Orange cap on the way. So far, Gambhir’s choices have worked well. But as he returns to his home ground, he will have to contend with the most intimidating attack in the competition.

Under spearhead Zaheer Khan, Delhi’s line-up comprising Pat Cummins, Corey Anderson, Chris Morris, Shahbaz Nadeem, Amit Mishra has looked seriously effective. Come to think of it, Delhi even enjoys the luxury of having benched names like Kagiso Rabada, Mohammad Shami and Jayant Yadav in these early days.

This year, what makes Delhi a serious contender is the fact that it has great ability to restrict the opposition. As seen on Saturday night against the unpredictable Kings XI Punjab, Delhi set a target of 189, struck thrice in the first five overs and reduced the opposition to 88 for six for a comfortable victory.

Kolkata prefers to chase but it needs no reminding that Delhi won its last two matches by scoring 205 and 188 batting first. Delhi’s batsmen, appearing far less intimating than most other teams, have done well with Sanju Samson, Chris Morris, Sam Billings and Corey Anderson coming good, by turns.

On the other hand, Kolkata has the depth in batting with Manish Pandey, Robin Uthappa, already showing form with the likes of Yusuf Pathan, Chris Woakes and Suryakumar Yadav raring to fire. Not withstanding the absence of an injured Chris Lynn, the visiting team has plenty in the tank. In short, the way Kolkata bats on Monday could well prove decisive