Reigning champions Mumbai Indians (MI) will clash against Delhi Capitals (DC) in the first qualifier of the Indian Premier League (IPL) in Dubai on Thursday. The team that loses the match will get a lifeline, and both sides will be looking to avoid playing the extra match.
MI have always been a strong contender for the title, and this season is no different. Ticking all the boxes so far, the Rohit Sharma-led side are clear favourites on Thursday.
MI have put up all-round performances in the batting line-up, evidenced by the fact that only Quinton de Kock (443 runs from 14 games) features in the top 10 of the highest run-scorers.
And yet, MI have comfortably managed to put big totals on the board. They were, however, at the receiving end in their last league match against Sunrisers Hyderabad (SRH) on Tuesday. They had rested ace fast bowlers Jasprit Bumrah (23 wickets) and Trent Boult (20) which resulted in MI failing to take a single wicket against SRH. The match would hence be seen as a one-off for MI and the threat of Bumrah and Boult tearing into the DC top order, which has looked fragile in their final league matches, looks a real possibility.
Meanwhile, de Kock, Ishan Kishan and Suryakumar Yadav are in sublime touch and would look to continue with it. The comeback of captain Rohit will further lift the morale of the side but the MI skipper, who fell cheaply against SRH, needs to get into the groove as early as possible. Kieron Pollard, Hardik Pandya and Krunal Pandya will look to build on the momentum down the order.
In the bowling department, Rahul Chahar, Pollard and Krunal have been quite effective so far, reducing the pressure on Bumrah and Boult. For DC, Ajinkya Rahane (111 runs) is back amongst the runs after scoring a match-winning 46-ball 60 against Royal Challengers Bangalore.
DC have however been plagued with inconsistency in their batting lineup which they will have to guard against as they face two of the most lethal new-ball bowlers in the world. Opener Prithvi Shaw (228 runs) has struggled to find form since his rapid start to the season and the same can be said about Rishabh Pant (282 runs) since he made his comeback from injury. Captain Shreyas Iyer (421 runs) will have to lay the foundation of putting up a challenging total on the board.
The inconsistency in the batting lineup has often seeped into their otherwise strong bowling attack. Kagiso Rabada (25 wickets) and compatriot Anrich Nortje (19 wickets) will again be DC's go-to men. Like Bumrah and Boult, the South African pace duo would also eye support from experienced Ravichandran Ashwin (10 wickets) and Axar Patel (8 wickets) to further reinforce their bowling attack.
While MI will draw confidence from the fact that they have beaten DC in both games this season, DC would try to leave no stone unturned in their bid for a first title.