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Match facts
Friday, March 19
Start time 1600 (1030 GMT)

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Neither side will be with the services of their influential and much revered captains. The man picked to lead Chennai Super Kings in MS Dhoni's absence, Suresh Raina, has limited experience in the role and certainly zilch when it comes to marshalling players of international caliber and with decades of experience. Neither has he fired yet with the bat. Dinesh Karthik, Delhi Daredevils' vice-captain, has plenty of leadership experience but his stature in the side does not match that of Gautam Gambhir. Both sides have conundrums, and that presents the biggest challenge for two power-packed sides searching for consistency in all three departments.

Chennai have, statistically, been a far better team on the road and thus they should look at the Feroz Shah Kotla, where Mumbai Indians racked up 218, with a degree of excitement. Raina, Matthew Hayden and Justin Kemp have yet to hit form and this could be the place for them to do so, and against an attack missing Ashish Nehra and having been deflated by Sachin Tendulkar, Saurabh Tiwary and Co. Chennai's two matches, a 31-run loss to Deccan Chargers and a 55-run win over Kolkata Knight Riders, leaves room for improvement and they don't look the strong side of the previous two IPLs. Not only has Dhoni been Chennai's main batsman in their two games this season, but his leadership played a big role in the side bouncing back after losing the first encounter. If they can rise to the occasion in his absence, it will be a real test of their strength and proof of whether they are semi-final contenders this season.

Semi-finalists on two occasions, Delhi cannot afford to lose consecutive games at home. Tipped by many to go all the way even before the IPL started, they looked good while picking up wins over Kings XI Punjab and Rajasthan Royals, but received a walloping at the hands of Mumbai yesterday. They are bruised, and not having Gambhir and Nehra around has left them smarting. Delhi have a chance to go one better to get to the top of the table for if they win, but for that their catching will also need to improve. Their three matches have seen a mix of incredible takes and sloppy efforts, and up against a strong batting side they can't afford lapses. Chennai minus Dhoni is just not the same, and Delhi must capitalise on that.

Team talk

Gambhir injured himself during last night's match against Mumbai and was on the field for barely 10 minutes during the 98-run loss. The team has confirmed that he will miss tomorrow's game. The loss opens up a spot for another batsman, and frankly it is time Delhi got in David Warner. A specialist Twenty20 opener, Warner would bring to the side a velocity that they so desperately need in Gambhir's absence and the poor run Tillakaratne Dilshan and AB de Villiers are having. The overseas player to bow out would then be Farveez Maharoof, who in three matches has gone for a whopping 9.91 runs an over. Delhi could easily draft in Aavishkar Salvi as a replacement fast bowler. If, however, Delhi do not opt for Warner, then the likely scheme would be for each batsman to move up a spot and for the allrounder Rajat Bhatia to figure in the puzzle. But frankly, Delhi have kept Warner on the bench too long.

Chennai have no other fitness worries apart from Dhoni, and so they should be able to field ten of the XI who beat Kolkata. Dhoni's replacement behind the stumps will be Parthiv Patel, who has some experience opening with Hayden in previous editions of the IPL, and so he could return to the top. Parthiv has also been in good form on the domestic circuit, so that would mean M Vijay having to step aside. Chennai have the Tasmanian batsman George Bailey in their squad but it's unlikely they're fretting about Hayden's poor form so much as to bench him.


The first IPL saw the teams win a game against each other: Delhi beat Chennai by eight wickets away, and when Chennai visited they won a humdinger by four wickets off the final ball of the match. In 2009 the results were the same: Delhi won the first game by nine runs, Chennai the second by 18 runs.

In the spotlight

Raina and Karthik: Neither has hit form with the bat, but both find themselves in leading roles. Raina shot to fame during the first IPL but struggled to recapture that glory in the second, and his form in two matches this past week has not been convincing. A good player of spin, Raina could trump the likes of Amit Mishra and Sarabjit Ladda who, despite going for runs in the last game, should hold his place. Karthik, a vital member of Delhi's shaky middle order, should move up a place in Gambhir's absence. He's a skilled Twenty20 player and has bailed Delhi out of a few holes in both the IPLs. This could be his toughest test yet.

The compatriots: Watch out for the two turks from South Africa facing-off. Albie Morkel, who is AB de Villiers' team-mate at their domestic franchise, the Titans, may have the rare opportunity to bowl against him. Morkel has struggled with the ball this season, and de Villiers with the bat. Who trumps who could make for exciting viewing. Similarly, the Sri Lankan pair of Muttiah Muralitharan and Dilshan stand to square off … if Dilshan lasts long enough, that is. He has two ducks and a breezy 17 to his credit, but he's not hung around long enough to face the spinners. Countering a wily old fox could just be the antidote to poor form.

Chennai's batsmen against spin: Delhi have preferred going in with two spinners. Amit Mishra is the specialist slow bowler, but Ladda has been expensive in two games. If he is benched, Delhi could turn to the former India offspinner Sarandeep Singh, who has been relegated to carrying drinks in three matches. The bowlers will be demoralised by the treatment they received at the hands of Mumbai's batsmen, but they haven't been exposed to Hayden, Raina, Kemp and Morkel. Regaining their confidence against a formidable batting line-up will be a challenge and makes for compelling viewing.

Prime numbers

# Justin Kemp may not have clicked with the bat, but with the ball he has taken three wickets at an average at nine runs each, the fourth best of the IPL this season. Kemp also has the best economy rate, 5.22.

# Dinesh Karthik has the most dismissals so far, four.


"The blow to the elbow, that put him out of action for the next few matches, leaves us without the biggest asset a 3-in-1 champion in dynamic form."
VB Chandrasekhar, Chennai's director of cricketing operations, on Dhoni

"The captain plays an important role. He should understand the game and should be able to take quick decisions. So many captains have been fined for slow over-ate in this tournament and we need to be careful."
Eric Simons, Delhi's assistant coach, wants his team to speed things up

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