Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Turning up the IPL heat

After three weeks of frantic, non-stop cricket, the battle for semi-final spots in the 2009 Indian Premier League is starting to take shape and Wednesday's key clash between leaders Delhi Daredevils and the Deccan Chargers at Kingsmead (4.30pm) is going to be keenly contested.

After a week's break, it's Durban's turn again to host the IPL circus with Wednesday's match followed by a double-header on Thursday. The final double-header will take place in Durban on Wednesday next week, completing a grand total of 16 matches in Durban - the most held in any of the eight venues.

Victory for the Delhi franchise, who also have a game in hand, would go a long way to confirming their position in the top four but the top of the table is so congested that a win for the Chargers would take them level on points with their opponents.

In such a tightly contested competition only one of the eight franchises, the Kolkata Knight Riders, are out of contention for the semis.

Delhi opener Gautam Gambhir has been deputising, pretty successfully, as the team's captain in the absence of the injured Virender Sehwag. One of the points of interest for another big crowd at today's match is whether big-hitting opener Sehwag will be fit to return and, if he does, who will make way for him?

Up until now Australian David Warner has played the big-hitting role at the top of the order.

Another fascinating development is that Glenn McGrath, who, despite being valued at $350 000, has yet to play a game in this year's tournament - easy money for him although it is no doubt frustrating for the most economical fast bowler in world cricket.

Perhaps the lean, lanky paceman, who retired from international cricket after the 2007 World Cup, is being kept out of the side by his compatriot Dirk Nannes.

Durban fans will again be keen to see the prolific AB de Villiers who has struck 271 runs for his team at an average of 67.75, the best of the tournament.

By contrast the Deccan Chargers have had a topsy-turvy time, winning their first four matches and then losing four of the next five. They will be hoping to continue the form they showed in their last match when they thumped 2008 champions the Rajasthan Royals by 53 runs.

After a sizzling start Herschelle Gibbs has suffered a big slump in form and was dropped for the match against Rajasthan. He hopes to return to action at Kingsmead, one of his favourite run-making grounds.

On Thursday the double-header will feature the Royal Challengers Bangalore against the Chennai Super Kings in the early match, with the 4.30pm clash between the Mumbai Indians and the Rajasthan Royals.

The pitch for all three matches will be the Test strip which provided some high-scoring matches last week. Former Kingsmead groundsman Phil Russell, who is helping with pitch preparation, predicted the surface would be a "belter" although a little slow because of the weekend rain.

[the article was originally published at http://www.iol.co.za/index.php?set_id=6&click_id=4&art_id=vn20090513064429456C804418 by Patrick Compton]

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