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Arun Gopalakrishnan in Mumbai 21 May 2012 - 02:14pm IST

Preview: Qualifier 1 – DD v KKR

Which of the season’s heavyweights will muscle their way to the final?

What

The top two teams at the end of the league stage – Delhi Daredevils and Kolkata Knight Riders – go head-to-head in the first of the DLF IPL Playoffs 2012.

Undoubtedly, DD and KKR have looked the best teams in the competition; the former sit at the top of the table with 11 wins from 16 league fixtures, while the latter have one point less and have won 10 of their 16 league fixtures (including the abandoned game against the Deccan Chargers).

However, both teams will be conscious of the fact that they’ve not been very convincing in their last few league matches. The Delhi Daredevils had won eight of their first ten matches, but since then they’ve only managed to win three of their remaining six fixtures. What should worry the DD management is that both, the batting and bowling units have failed in their last three defeats.

Despite finishing the league season with consecutive victories, Kolkata Knight Riders will know they weren’t at their best in their last few league fixtures. The batting certainly hasn’t looked as formidable as it did during their eight-match unbeaten streak and they will need their batsmen to come out firing at this important stage in the competition.

When

Tuesday, May 22, 2012, 08:00 p.m.


Where


Subrata Roy Sahara Stadium, Pune


The Protagonists


In a format where opening batsmen often dictate the course of the match, it is only fair to keep a close watch on them, more so if they happen to be Virender Sehwag, David Warner, Brendon McCullum and Gautam Gambhir.

As compared to previous IPL seasons, Sehwag has looked a completely different batsman. One got the impression he lacked the hunger for runs when he came out to bat in the previous seasons, but this season, one has seen intent and the determination to do well for his team. His application reflects in the fact that this is his most successful IPL season and he is his team’s highest run-getter despite missing the last two league matches due to illness. The DD skipper, though, has only managed 16 runs in his last three innings and would want to return to top form in this important fixture.

David Warner may only be 5’6” tall, but he is among the most destructive openers in the world. The Australian has already played two match-winning knocks this season and he will be keen to perform yet again in this high-stakes match.

The record for the highest individual score in Twenty20 cricket still lies with Brendon McCullum. His unbeaten 158 in the very first IPL fixture shows what kind of damage he is capable of inflicting on bowling attacks. Though he didn’t do much in the first half of the season, McCullum – like all great players – has come to the party at just the right time. After scoring 83 runs in his first seven innings at less than a run a ball, McCullum has raised his game to score double that number in the next five innings – at a strike-rate of 108.

Gautam Gambhir might not send shivers down the spine of bowlers like the other three openers in the match, but he can certainly cause as much damage. KKR have done well every time he has scored runs at the top of the order and have struggled every time he has failed. Given the intensity of his character and how much he values his wicket, expect him to come out with a lot of purpose and lead by example.

Though both teams have very good bowling attacks, KKR will feel they have an edge because of the quality spinners in their line-up and the slow surface they’re likely to encounter at Pune. Sunil Narine has mesmerised batsmen right through the tournament, while in Iqbal Abdulla, Shakib al Hasan and Yusuf Pathan they have an able support cast in the spin department.

Previous Meetings

The head-to-head record between the Delhi Daredevils and the Kolkata Knight Riders stands at four matches apiece.

When these two teams clashed in the league stage, it was the visiting team that prevailed on both occasions. In the first meeting at the Eden Gardens, the Delhi Daredevils recorded an eight-wicket win in a rain-affected match, while in the return fixture at the Feroz Shah Kotla Stadium in Delhi, KKR chased down 154 to win by six wickets.

Trivia

• In the two matches between DD and KKR played at neutral venues – in Durban and Johannesburg in IPL 2009 – the former emerged victorious on both occasions.

• DD have the second best scoring rate of all the teams in IPL 2012 – 8.33.

• DD have lost the fewest wickets of all the teams in IPL 2012; they’ve only lost 76 wickets in 15 league fixtures.

• KKR have the best overall bowling economy rate of all the teams in IPL 2012 – 6.99.

• KKR have won seven of their eight away matches this season.

What next?

The winner of this contest progresses straight to the DLF IPL 2012 Final on May 27, while the losing team will have another opportunity of making it to the title clash when they compete against the winners of the Eliminator in Qualifier 2 scheduled for May 25.

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