New Delhi: A steadily improving Delhi Daredevils look all set to challenge the might of title contenders Kolkata Knight Riders when the two teams clash for the second time in the Indian Premier League (IPL) cricket match, here on Saturday.
The hosts will be keen to put up a good performance after suffering a humiliating nine-wicket defeat at hands of the same opponents at the Eden Gardens early in the tournament when they were bowled out for less than 100 runs.
Things have shaped for better as far as Daredevils are concerned. They are much better side than the previous seasons. Since that defeat against KKR in Kolkata, Daredevils have found balance in the side and confidence to challenge the big teams.
The results against RCB and Mumbai Indians are a testimony to that while Chris Morris' unbelievable hitting nearly won them their last game against Gujarat Lions which they lost by a run in a nail-biting finish.
KKR have always been one of the most consistent sides and with an aggressive captain in Gautam Gambhir at the helm, the Daredevils will hope that they can savour a well-fought T20 cricket match.
The two teams are coming into the contest after suffering defeats in previous games and they will look to shrug off the nerve-wracking results to get back the momentum and pocket crucial points.
Morris almost single-handedly pulled off a win for Daredevils but his efforts came to a naught against Gujarat Lions in a last-ball thriller.
Similarly, Knight Riders were done in by Kieron Pollard 17-ball-51 run blitz combined with Rohit Sharma's well-calculated knock, last night.
For KKR skipper Gautam Gambhir, it is sort of homecoming since he has spent a good number of years playing at the Feroz Shah Kotla, which is his home ground when he competes for Delhi in the Ranji Trophy.
However, T20 cricket is such that more than the familiarity with the conditions, it is one individual's brilliance on a particular day that can shape the match or change the match entirely.
Daredevils skipper Zaheer Khan need to do better and give his side some early breakthroughs. He has been inconsistent as he had two good matches against Kings XI Punjab and Mumbai Indians while he leaked 50 and 48 runs in other two games.
Against Royal Challengers Bangalore he was taken for 50 runs in his four overs and against Lions too he had given away 18 runs in his very first over and ended up bleeding 48 in all.
A bowler of his stature and class is expected to have a better performance or rather an inspiring one under his belt, specially when he is leading the side.
The batsmen are doing fine for them and one or other has risen to occasion whether it is Quinton de Kock at top or Sanju Samson, Karun Nair and JP Duminy in the middle order.
Morris' big-hitting ability in the game against Lions has only added to their strength confidence. It will be interesting to see if Zaheer persist with spin-loaded attack and if the marauding Carlos Brathwaite continues to warm the benches.
Amit Mishra is the only spinner who has played all the games so far Daredevils while others have been rotated according to conditions and opponents. Given the slow nature of Kotla track, Mishra is set to feature again but what other combination Zaheer and coach Rahul Dravid opt for, remains to be seen.
KKR batsmen led by skipper Gambhir are in top form and they are yet to lose a match while chasing. They have done extremely well, thanks to their batting might and it wont be surprise if KKR invites Delhi to bat first upon winning the toss.
Gambhir himself is in top form, having hit three half-centuries and is third in top run getters list with 296 runs behind Rohit Sharma (298) and Virat Kohli (367 runs).
He has been aided well by Robin Uthappa, Suryakumar Yadav, Yusuf Pathan an Andre Russell.
Delhi Daredvils: Zaheer Khan (captain), Mayank Agarwal, Khaleel Ahmed, Sam Billings, Carlos Brathwaite, Nathan Coulter-Nile, Quinton de Kock, JP Duminy, Akhil Herwadkar, Imran Tahir, Shreyas Iyer, Mahipal Lomror, Chama Milind, Amit Mishra, Mohammed Shami, Chris Morris, Shahbaz Nadeem, Karun Nair, Pawan Negi, Rishabh Pant, Sanju Samson, Pawan Suyal, Jayant Yadav, Pratyush Singh
Kolkata Knight Riders: Gautam Gambhir (captain), Piyush Chawla, Brad Hogg, Jason Holder, Sheldon Jackson, Kuldeep Yadav, Chris Lynn, Manan Sharma,Morne Morkel, Colin Munro, Sunil Narine, Manish Pandey, Yusuf Pathan, Ankit Rajpoot, Andre Russell, Rajagopal Sathish, Shakib Al Hasan, Jaydev Unadkat, Robin Uthappa, Suryakumar Yadav, Umesh Yadav.