Both teams are strong at the top but have a tendency of losing steam towards the end of their innings
In the blue corner, we have Prithvi Shaw, Shikhar Dhawan, Rishabh Pant and others. In the red, there are KL Rahul, Chris Gayle, Nicholas Pooran and friends. The Delhi Capitals’ contest against the Punjab Kings is of the kind where, were it a boxing match, there would be the promise of some heavy-duty action in the first few rounds, with the possibility of a peter-out later on.
That’s because of how the two teams are made up. Both rely on their top orders to do the bulk of the work, and if the top order falters, then the batting goes from sizzle to fizzle pretty quickly. There are other points in common too: they are stocked with lots of pace options, and each has won one game and lost one. However, while the Capitals might look back at their defeat against the Rajasthan Royals and think they could have won two in two, the Kings would need to pick themselves up after a rather comprehensive wipe-out against the Chennai Super Kings.
This will be the last outing at the Wankhede Stadium for the two teams in IPL 2021. The tracks there have not lived up to the reputation of being batting beauties in the last couple of matches, but given a flat track, there are bound to be fireworks.
What both teams might look for, though, is a bit more batting depth. Each faced a top-order collapse in their last games, which would have made them conscious of how steeply the batting falls off after the top few. While Pant being around allowed the Capitals to at least hit near 150, none of the top five stayed much beyond the powerplay for the Kings, and it needed Shahrukh Khan at No. 6 to drag them just over 100. They both have the personnel in their squads to lengthen the batting, though that would inevitably come at the expense of the bowling, and it’s a balancing call they have to take. The Capitals could drop one of their overseas bowlers to bring back Shimron Hetmyer, while the Kings could do the same to bring in a Fabian Allen or a Moises Henriques.
In the news
Anrich Nortje, bowler of the fastest ball in IPL history, is back in the Capitals’ team bubble after a Covid-19 scare. Nortje had landed in Mumbai on April 6, and had to spend extended time in quarantine after a positive test, but has subsequently tested negative thrice. The Capitals certainly missed Nortje in their loss against the Royals, and he can now resume his partnership with Kagiso Rabada to provide the pace blast they had last year. Nortje’s addition would almost certainly mean a benching for Tom Curran, who hasn’t been able to control the flow of runs effectively.
The Capitals have also roped in Shams Mulani as a temporary replacement for Axar Patel, a like-for-like left-arm-spinning allrounder, and brought in Aniruddha Joshi for the injured Shreyas Iyer. It remains to be seen whether either of them can be fitted into the XIs.
Delhi Capitals: 1 Prithvi Shaw, 2 Shikhar Dhawan, 3 Ajinkya Rahane, 4 Rishabh Pant (capt, wk), 5 Marcus Stoinis, 6 Shimron Hetmyer, 7 Lalit Yadav, 8 R Ashwin, 9 Kagiso Rabada, 10 Avesh Khan, 11 Anrich Nortje
Sunrisers Hyderabad: 1 Mayank Agarwal, 2 KL Rahul (capt, wk), 3 Chris Gayle, 4 Deepak Hooda, 5 Nicholas Pooran, 6 Shahrukh Khan, 7 Jhye Richardson, 8 M Ashwin, 9 Mohammed Shami, 10 Riley Meredith, 11 Arshdeep Singh
- The Capitals didn’t use up all of R Ashwin‘s four overs in their defeat against the Royals, something that coach Ricky Ponting admitted might have been a mistake. They would not want to repeat that in this game, with Ashwin likely to be particularly valuable in the middle, bowling to Gayle and Pooran, both left-handers. Both big-hitting West Indians have not quite managed to get on top of Ashwin. While the offspinner has a long history of success against Gayle and has even kept him to less than a run-a-ball, he bowled superbly to Pooran in IPL 2020’s opening game too, getting him for a duck.
- With Pooran having fallen twice to short balls in IPL 2021 and yet to score a run, expect Delhi to unleash their considerable pace artillery at him too. For the Kings then, a good start is essential. The Capitals might want to have both Ashwin and a pacer bowling to Pooran, but if Rahul, Agarwal and Gayle can get the team off to a good start, then those plans will come unstuck. And while Pooran may have started off with two ducks, he remains amongst the best hitters of the ball, who can cause mayhem when coming in with a set platform.
Stats that matter
- In five IPL games at the Wankhede, Pant has averaged 63.66 at a strike rate of 192.92. Even including games other than the IPL, Pant has enjoyed himself at this venue, averaging 41.83 at a strike rate of 180.57 in nine matches.
- Since January 2018, only one batter has scored more than 2000 runs in the IPL: Rahul. He’s done it at an average of 54.54, while the strike rate has veered sharply between extremes in past seasons. It remains to be seen which version of Rahul turns up. While the aggressive version worked wonders in the win against the Royals, the collapse against the Super Kings might make him change tack.
Saurabh Somani is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo
Cricketers around the world express solidarity with Palestine after civilian casualties rise
As the death toll in Gaza following Israeli air strikes escalated, cricketers around the world made their voices heard
Cricketers from around the world have expressed support and solidarity with the people of Palestine, with the death toll from Israeli airstrikes in Gaza rising sharply over the past few days. Several of the dead are civilians, including at least 13 children.
The violence began on Monday when the Israeli military entered the Al Aqsa mosque, one of the holiest sites in Islam, in the final days of Ramadan, the holy month for Muslims.
Several members of the Pakistan cricket team, led by captain Babar Azam posted messages on Twitter, with a running theme of prayers for the Palestinian people, imploring the world to “stand up for humanity”. Shan Masood, Azhar Ali and Shadab Khan were among the other Pakistanis who expressed solidarity.
— Babar Azam (@babarazam258) May 11, 2021
The messages of goodwill weren’t limited to Pakistani cricketers. Afghanistan legspinner Rashid Khan called it “no crime more heinous than the killing of a child”. Hashim Amla, in a lengthy Instagram post, drew comparisons to Nelson Mandela’s struggle against apartheid, reminding people of Mandela’s unstinting support for the people of Palestine throughout his life. Mandela had said South Africa’s struggle was “incomplete without the freedom of the Palestinians”.
Tabraiz Shamsi, Daren Sammy and Kagiso Rabada also posted messages on Twitter praying for Palestine, while former India all-rounder Irfan Pathan said one “only needed to be human” to support their cause. George Linde condemned the “terrible scenes” while England bowler Saqib Mahmood asked people not to turn a blind eye, using the hashtag #FreePalestine.
This isn’t the first time cricket has found itself caught up in the issue. In 2014, at the height of an Israeli military operation in Gaza, England allrounder Moeen Ali wore wristbands with slogans reading #FreePalestine and #SaveGaza during a Test match between England and India. The ICC match referee David Boon decided it was a breach of the ICC regulation forbidding cricketers from sending out political messages and asked Moeen to remove the wristbands.
Qais Ahmad signs Kent deal for T20 Blast, two County Championship games
Last season’s beaten quarter-finalists lean towards spin-heavy strategy for Blast
Qais Ahmad, the Afghanistan legspinner, has signed for Kent for the whole of T20 Blast and two County Championship fixtures, adding to the burgeoning list of teams he has represented around the world in short-form cricket.
Ahmad, 20, was due to join Gloucestershire as an overseas player last summer but had his contract cancelled on account of the Covid-19 pandemic. As a result, this will be his first stint in county cricket.
He is also due to play for Welsh Fire in the inaugural season of the Hundred, after he was retained ahead of February’s re-draft. As a result, he will stay in the UK after the conclusion of the Blast’s group stage, and is likely to be available for the knockout stages.
The club also signed Mohammad Amir for the second half of the competition last month, while Heino Kuhn is registered as an overseas player after the expiration of Kolpak status. Counties are allowed to register three overseas players simultaneously, but can field a maximum of two in a match.
Ahmad is the fifth Afghanistan player to sign a deal for this year’s Blast, after Rashid Khan (Sussex), Mujeeb Ur Rahman (Middlesex), Mohammad Nabi (Northamptonshire) and Naveen-ul-Haq (Leicestershire). He would not have qualified for a governing body endorsement for his visa but for a change in the ECB’s requirements two years ago.
Kent were beaten quarter-finalists in last year’s Blast, and the signing of Ahmad hints at a change in strategy for the 2021 season. They generally fielded a solitary frontline spinner in Imran Qayyum last summer, alongside Joe Denly’s part-time legbreaks, but may now opt for a spin-heavy side this season.
Ahmad is also due to be available for Kent’s final two games of the initial group stage of the Championship, against Lancashire at Old Trafford and Sussex at Beckenham. If selected, they would be his first first-class games since he made his Test debut against Bangladesh in September 2019, and he would become the first Afghanistan player to appear in the Championship.
“I’m excited to play in the Vitality Blast and I’m really looking forward to being a Kent Spitfire,” he said. “Having played alongside Daniel Bell-Drummond at Colombo Kings, I have heard good things about Kent and I will give it my all.”
Paul Downton, the club’s director of cricket, said: “Qais Ahmad is an exciting talent who has shown his ability in top quality leagues all over the world. I am confident that his enthusiasm for the game will make him a firm favourite with our members and supporters as we look to welcome crowds back to watching live cricket again.”
Matt Roller is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo. @mroller98
LPL 2021 – SLC lines up August window for Lanka Premier League’s second season
Franchise tournament to be staged immediately after India’s white-ball tour
Sri Lanka Cricket have announced that the second season of the Lanka Premier League (LPL) will be played from July 30 to August 22, with further details about the franchise tournament yet to be confirmed.
The window falls immediately after Sri Lanka’s home series against India, which comprises three ODIs and three T20Is, finishing on July 27. It also means that the LPL will clash with the Hundred, the ECB’s new 100-ball competition, which starts on July 21, but will be finished before the start of the Caribbean Premier League on August 28.
Professor Arjuna de Silva, the chairman of SLC’s management committee, said: “We have found a suitable window to hold this year’s edition, whilst we are currently working on finalising the other details of the tournament.”
The inaugural season of the tournament was played between November 26 and December 16 in a bio-secure bubble, with all 23 fixtures staged in Hambantota. Jaffna Stallions were the champions, beating Galle Gladiators in the final.
SLC said in a statement that it would “assess the country’s situation and discuss with the Ministry of Health closer to the tournament to ascertain the health situation in the country prior to taking a final decision on the competition.”
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