Dubai: High-flying Delhi Capitals will be seeking to consolidate their grasp on the top position even as the Kolkata Knight Riders, Kings XI Punjab and Sunrisers Hyderabad attempt a serious surge for the play-offs in this weekend’s double-headers of the Indian Premier League (IPL).
At the top of the standings with 14 points, Delhi will be looking for yet another win to further consolidate their position when they take on the fourth-placed Kolkata Knight Riders in the early match in Abu Dhabi on Saturday.
Later in the evening, fifth-placed Sunrisers Hyderabad will tackle sixth-placed Kings XI Punjab at the Dubai International Stadium in an attempt to keep their hopes alive for the remaining three play-off spots available.
But, with at least four games still left per side, none of the eight teams — except the Delhi Capitals — can take anything for granted as they contest for the remaining three qualifying slots.
The Eoin Morgan-led KKR have a mountain to climb especially after their most recent eight-wicket dismantling at the hands of Royal Challengers Bangalore last week. The KKR batsmen fell like the proverbial nine pins to be restricted to a miserly 84-8 in their allotted 20 overs. RCB then went past the target with eight wickets and 39 deliveries remaining.
Even the change in captaincy from Dinesh Karthik to Morgan has not instilled much confidence in the side with the performance of pacer Lockie Ferguson the only bright spot along with the disappointment of Andre Russell’s poor run of form. Russell missed out on the last match due to an injury, and it will be interesting to see if the team management will put him back in.
That said, KKR will truly need a collective effort from now on, and led by skipper Morgan, the rest of the players especially Karthik, Shubhman Gill and Nitish Rana will all be required to contribute to the cause.
In the second match of the day, KXIP will be up against another resurgent team in the form of Sunrisers Hyderabad in a must-win encounter for two well-matched sides.
Both KXIP and SRH have an identical eight points after 10 games, but the David Warner-led Hyderabad outfit are above Punjab by virtue of a better net run-rate. Both teams have the onerous task of winning their remaining four games to guarantee their spot in the play-offs.
After that opening0game loss in a Super Over, KXIP seem to have got most things sorted out with their batting led by skipper KL Rahul along with Mayank Agarwal, Nicholas Pooran and back-to-form Chris Gayle. The team have not lived up to potential despite the top two run-scorers — openers Rahul (540) and Mayank Agarwal (398) — in the ranks.
However, now with the successful return of Gayle, the thirst for success shown by Glenn Maxwell and the timely inclusion of Kiwi Jimmy Neesham has witnessed a turnaround of sorts.
The Sunrisers too are in a similar position desperately needing to win their remaining four matches and make it to the play-offs. After three successive defeats, they did well on Thursday with a smashing eight-wicket win over the Rajasthan Royals.
But they also know they have very little margin for errors hereon. The Sunrisers can be pleased with the fact that young Manish Pandey and Vijay Shankar took over with timely half centuries following the early departures of their skipper Warner and Jonny Bairstow. Pandey topscored with 83 and Shankar got 52 as the duo put on an unbeaten 140 runs to see their team through.
West Indies all-rounder Jason Holder’s inclusion has further aided the Sunrisers, but they would certainly relish the thought of their young guns such as Priyam Garg, Abdul Samad and T Natarajan, coming through.