Delhi Capitals v Punjab Kings
Wednesday 20 April, 15:00
TV: live on Sky Sports
Delhi are going nowhere fast. They aced a tough chase after a middle-order collapse in their very first game but managed just one win from their next four. Their latest loss was as a result of their failure to chase a stiff target against RCB.
What cost them was conceding far too many runs at the death with Dinesh Karthik well set. Yes, he was in great touch but they didn't bowl in the right areas to him and he duly punished them, costing them 20-odd runs more than they should have been chasing.
They're badly missing Anrich Nortje, who is superb at any stage of the innings with the ball but had been particularly effective last year in the death overs.
He looked incredibly rusty in the game he played and was taken out of the attack after bowling two no-balls for height. But assuming he's fit, now is the time to give him another go.
If they don't want to go down that route, they could do worse than give Lungi Ngidi a game. He could come in for the ineffective Rovman Powell and give them a proper strike bowler, though it would leave them with a pretty long tail.
Mitch Marsh also looked incredibly rusty in his first game and his laboured innings was a big factor in them not chasing that target, something skipper Rishabh Pant wasn't afraid to point out in the aftermath.
March has now tested positive for Covid, so you'd think he'll be ruled out, but let's wait and see.
They don't want to weaken their batting further by bringing in another overseas bowler for Marsh, so they might play Tim Seifert if 'Big Bison' doesn't make it.
At least David Warner has been good. He's hit 61 and 66 in his last two games at a strong strike rate. He's key to their chances.
Delhi's Likely XI
Warner, Shaw, Seifert, Pant, Yadav, Thakur, Axar, Yadav, Ahmed, Ngidi, Rahmann.
Punjab batting not firing
If Punjab always looked like a side who could bat but couldn't really bowl, then maybe that's because that's exactly what they are.
Their batting line-up is absolutely packed with superb T20 batsmen, capable of scoring at breakneck pace. Or at least they are on paper. On paper, because they're not all going well.
Skipper Mayank Agarwal only has one decent score to his name and missed the last game injured anyway.
Jonny Bairstow hasn't got going yet either. I've said it before and I'll say it again: why didn't they just stick with P Rajapaksa when he was playing so well?
So it's mostly been left to Liam Livingstone to deliver.
He struck 60 off 33 last time out against SRH but he got little support, they posted just 151, and that was easy pickings for SRH.
So, with their all-star batting not firing and their bowling looking at least two high-class players short, you have to worry about whether they're as good as they once looked.
Punjab's Likely XI
Agarwal, Dhawan, Bairstow, Livingstone, Sharma, Khan, Smith, Rabada, Chahar, Arora, Singh.
It was at Pune that we witnessed arguably the best match of the tournament so far on Sunday, that Gujarat comeback win out of nowhere against CSK making for compelling viewing. They chased 170 with a ball to spare.
Before that, Punjab scored 198 first up to beat Mumbai, RCB easily chased 152 (also) against Mumbai, and Gujarat's 171 was too good for Delhi.
It was also here that the Royals posted 210, far too many for SRH to chase.
So, first innings scores have been all over the place and it's not obvious as to what's best to do at the toss.
But here's what we do know: get to 170 batting first and you're very much in the game.
Not much to get excited about on the winner market
Before checking the odds, I made it pretty much evens the pair on the Exchange.
As it happens, you can get 2.111/10 on the Capitals which is probably just a reflection of the fact that Punjab have one more win to their name (they've also played an extra game) than necessarily being the superior side.
I don't really trust either side and would be surprised if either of them made the Playoffs.
They're both too expensive with the ball and, though both teams boast good batting line-ups, each of them also have normally reliable batsmen who are out of form.
Agarwal, Bairstow, Rishabh Pant and Marsh to name but four.
So, I'll leave the winner market well alone.
Warner to fight another lone battle
Write Warner off at your peril.
He came into the last World Cup badly out of form and ended up being Player of the Tournament.
He came into this year's IPL having hardly played any T20 for months and so it showed in his first game, crawling to four off 12, before getting out with what was practically his first attacking shot of the innings.
But he hit back with 61 and 66 in the last week to top score for his side on both occasions.
There will be those who feel three on the spin is a bridge too far and that sooner or later a good ball has Warner's name on it. But look at it the other way: if he's scoring sixties at a fast lick, he's obviously in form and seeing it well.
Add to the equation that he's an opener and has bundles of IPL experience and it's not so hard to make a case for him at 16/5.
There should be no Marsh to have to beat and no-one else is in great form, so we're taking that.
Can Livingstone go big again?
And if jumping on the bandwagon of an in-form player in a side where others are struggling is your thing, then you're going to like the next bet, too.
Livingstone has 224 runs to his name so far, more than anyone else at Punjab. That includes three scores in the 60s and he's striking at 185. Only the aforementioned Rajapaksa is higher at 230 from among Delhi players. He probably won't play.
All three of those scores in the 60s were enough for him to top score so he's 3/6 so far this season for Punjab top bat.
So, it's all a very similar rationale to that of Warner but it's not like we're taking prohibitively short prices. Quite the contrary: 7/2 is very decent.
Big-hitting Sharukh Khan is into 9/1 after being 22/1 last match, where he was their second top scorer with 26. The value is clearly gone.