A little more than 24 hours before the event the MA Chidambaram Stadium in Chennai showed little signs that it was going to play host to what has turned out to be the big game in this Indian Premier League tournament. Top of the table and unbeaten, Chennai look to continue their perfect run as second-place Delhi, who have only lost one game, play catch up.
It will be a change of scenario for the Delhi IPL team, who have played at home, in Mohali and at Hyderabad so far, all places where the onset of summer has been balanced slightly by a complete lack of humidity. Chennai was at its shirt-drenching best and the home team practiced on the centre pitch with each batsman taking short bursts.
The Delhi team, which arrived in bits and piece from early morning till late night, was so drained after the last match, in which they overcame the Bangalore side in a tight encounter that extended late into Wednesday night, did not even come in for practice.
Before the last home game the management had made practice optional, but this time they decided to do away with it altogether.
Dinesh Karthik, who was one of the first Delhi players to arrive in Chennai, told the Hindustan Times that things were not getting any easier as the tournament is unfolding. "The more people play this format the more they're beginning to realise what works for them and what doesn't," he said. "It's flabbergasting how quickly things are changing. Now even if you score 220 you're not completely safe."
In most cases you would back this team to defend 220, given the attack they possess.
Glenn McGrath has been far and away the most difficult bowler to resist in the tournament, and TA Sekar, looking after cricket operations for the team, was all praise. "He arrived in India past midnight, but was at fielding practice first thing in the morning. It might be more than a year since he retired, but he's still making life miserable for batsmen. The commitment he is showing is the same as when he played for Australia." Sekar also revealed that McGrath was revelling in his mentoring role, helping the younger bowlers along. Young Vijaykumar Yomahesh made such an impact that Rahul Dravid, the Bangalore captain, drew attention to him after the last match.
"I think the difference was McGrath's wickets, both upfront and in the later stage. Yomahesh bowled tight too.”
Twenty20 matches are decided in one-two overs and we needed two big overs, which we just didn't get."
Therein lies the challenge for Mahendra Singh Dhoni — who has been calmness personified so far, striking out just when it was needed — the coming clash. Choosing when to step on the gas, or whom, to target, in this Delhi team will be a tough ask.
No team has looked more likely to stop the Chennai team than Delhi, and all theories will be put to test come Friday.