Two-time champions CSK, despite an upset defeat to Punjab in their first game, start favourites against Delhi Daredevils who may miss Pietersen again. (BCCI Images)
Handed a shock defeat by Kings XI Punjab in their tournament opener, two-time Indian Premier League (IPL) champions Chennai Super Kings (CSK) would be eager to get back to winning ways against a rejuvenated Delhi Daredevils (DD) at Abu Dhabhi on Monday, but it won't be easy for Delhi.
Chennai lost their IPL-7 lung opener by six wickets on Friday despite posting a mammoth 205 on the board. The former champions were let down by their bowlers against a Glen Maxwell-inspired Punjab. The Aussie scored a 43-ball 95 to help his team chase down the seemingly tough target with seven balls to spare.
Delhi, on the other hand, will come into the match having re-gained their confidence after beating Kolkata Knight Riders on Saturday, following a loss in their first match against Royal Challengers Bangalore. But a red-hot CSK won't be easy to handle.
CSK don't have anything to worry about their batting at the moment. The Chennai line-up seemed to be in terrific touch with the bat as their openers Dwayne Smith and Brendon McCullum smashed fine fifties in a century stand. The middle-order, despite not getting much batting time against Punjab, too looked in fine nick with Suresh Raina and MS Dhoni stroking the ball well.
The main worry for Dhoni will be bowling. It fell apart against Punjab in the face of a brutal onslaught by Maxwell and David Miller. Neither Ashish Nehra nor Mohit Sharma caused much discomfort to the rivals. Dhoni's trump card R Ashwin bagged a couple of wickets but, along with Ravindra Jadeja, conceded more than 10 runs per over. Though Dhoni will be forced to rethink his bowling combination, it's unlikely that he will change his eleven with just one match into the tournament.
Delhi also opened their campaign with a loss against Bangalore but recovered rather quickly by beating Kolkata in style. Their batting has looked inconsistent so far; and with Kevin Pietersen still a doubt for Delhi's third match, the responsibility to lead will remain with Dinesh Karthik, who anchored Delhi's win over Kolkata with a fine half-century. He was supported by South African import JP Duminy as DD chased down a competitive 167 to win. But Delhi will want Murali Vijay, Ross Taylor and Manoj Tiwary to come to the party if they were to challenge the ever solid CSK.
In comparison to Chennai's bowling, Delhi lack teeth. Mohammed Shami has been a bit inconsistent, though Nathan Coulter-Nile and Jaydev Unadkat bowled appreciably against Kolkata. Shahbaz Nadeem and Jimmy Neesham also need to up their game with the ball if they want to give Chennai batsmen a hard time on Monday.
Delhi Daredevils: 1 Murali Vijay, 2 Mayank Agarwal, 3 Dinesh Karthik (c/wk), 4 Ross Taylor, 5 JP Duminy, 6 Manoj Tiwary, 7 Jimmy Neesham, 8 Nathan Coulter-Nile, 9 Shahbaz Nadeem, 10 Mohammed Shami, 11 Jaydev Unadkat
Chennai Super Kings: 1 Dwayne Smith, 2 Brendon McCullum, 3 Suresh Raina, 4 MS Dhoni (c/wk), 5 Dwayne Bravo, 6 Faf du Plessis, 7 Ravindra Jadeja, 8 R Aswhin, 9 Mohit Sharma, 10 Pawan Negi, 11 Ashish Nehra
(With PTI inputs)