Can Super Kings work their magic away from spin-friendly Chepauk?

Big Picture

Both teams have got off to winning starts, one at home and one away. Now it’s Delhi Capitals’ turn to play their first home game, and Chennai Super Kings’ to test themselves on the road. If the Feroz Shah Kotla rolls out a seam-friendly track to suit the home team, it will present Super Kings an interesting challenge. Their win against Royal Challengers Bangalore came on a slow, square turner, and was engineered by an attack with three frontline spinners.

With Lungi Ngidi ruled out for the entire season, and with no replacement named as yet, do Super Kings have the pace resources to compete across a range of conditions? In terms of options, if the Kotla pitch is anything between flat and seaming, they could play David Willey ahead of one of the spinners.

For Delhi, everything fell into place against Mumbai thanks to Rishabh Pant’s incredible unbeaten 78. That innings put concerns over their selection – they picked six bowlers and had Keemo Paul batting at No. 6 – on the backburner, but they could re-emerge if Delhi go with a similar combination and lose a few early wickets.

It’s likely to be less of an issue when Chris Morris is available for selection, but that might have to wait until Delhi’s next game, against Kolkata Knight Riders on Saturday. Morris only flew in to India on Monday, a day after playing a T20I for South Africa against Sri Lanka.

Likely XIs

Delhi Daredevils: 1 Shikhar Dhawan, 2 Prithvi Shaw, 3 Shreyas Iyer (capt), 4 Colin Ingram, 5 Rishabh Pant (wk), 6 Chris Morris/Keemo Paul, 7 Axar Patel, 8 Rahul Tewatia, 9 Kagiso Rabada, 10 Trent Boult, 11 Ishant Sharma

Chennai Super Kings: 1 Shane Watson, 2 Ambati Rayudu, 3 Suresh Raina, 4 Kedar Jadhav, 5 MS Dhoni (capt wk), 6 Dwayne Bravo, 7 Ravindra Jadeja, 8 David Willey, 9 Harbhajan Singh/Imran Tahir, 10 Deepak Chahar, 11 Shardul Thakur

Strategy punt

If Willey comes into the Super Kings attack, which spinner do they leave out? Given the number of left-handers in Delhi’s line-up, conventional wisdom might tempt them to play Harbhajan Singh ahead of Imran Tahir, but that would ignore Tahir’s impressive recent record against left-handers.

In all T20s since the start of 2015, Tahir has averaged 19.8 against left-handers while conceding 7.6 per over against them. Against right-handers he has near-identical numbers: 20.6 and 7.3. Since the start of 2018, only Mujeeb Ur Rahman (25) has taken more wickets of left-hand batsmen than Tahir, who sits in joint second place with Rashid Khan and Fawad Ahmed with 23.

Tahir has also played for Delhi before, and has an excellent T20 record at the Kotla: 17 wickets in 11 matches at an average of 15.4 and an economy rate of 6.9.

Stats that matter

  • Delhi and Super Kings have met 18 times in the IPL, with Chennai winning 12 of the meetings and Delhi the other six.

  • While the pitch at the Kotla is unlikely to help spinners as lavishly as the one in Chennai did on Saturday, it has generally been a friend to slower bowlers. Last season, spinners averaged 31.5 and conceded 7.8 per over in Delhi, while the quicks managed corresponding figures of 34.6 and 9.4.

  • Delhi have a formidable pace attack, but they might be tempted to throw the new ball to Axar Patel given his head-to-head record against Shane Watson in T20s: 28 balls, 25 runs, and five dismissals in five meetings. The trouble is, Watson’s likely opening partner Ambati Rayudu has enjoyed himself over his three meetings with Axar: 35 runs off 19 balls, and one dismissal.

  • MS Dhoni loves using Deepak Chahar in the Powerplay: since the start of last season, Chahar has bowled 83% of his IPL overs during that phase of the innings, and hasn’t bowled outside the first 11 overs. If anyone in Delhi’s top order can successfully go after Chahar early on, it could force Dhoni out of this comfort zone.

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