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Equals in knockout clash

cricket Updated: May 17, 2008 01:40 IST
Anand Vasu
Anand Vasu
Hindustan Times
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Two men will sleep very differently the day before they come up against each other in the Delhi-Mohali IPL tie.

For Virender Sehwag this is the latest in the must-win situations he has been faced with, and the last two matches have yielded no score. For Yuvraj Singh, who will lead Mohali, a semifinal berth is within kissing distance and any team would like to know for sure that its spot in the final four has been booked.

But Sehwag and Yuvraj go into the game with completely differing team situations. The Mohali team has won six of the last seven matches they have played and in Shaun Marsh they’ve unearthed a demon Twenty20 player who has made 295 runs at a Bradmanesque average of 98.33 and a strike rate of 135.94. That Yuvraj has not made a big score can scarcely be a concern for his team given they’re winning everything at the moment.

Sehwag’s twin-ducks in the last two matches won’t have him worried but what he will be thinking about is the Delhi team’s dependency on the top three to fire. Put the question to him, though, and he brushes it off as though dispatching a leg-stump half-volley to midwicket. “To be honest, I can’t blame the middle order. The fact remains that they are not getting a chance on most occasions, because the top order is finishing the job,” said Sehwag when asked if Delhi’s middle-order was letting their team down. “I mean players like Manoj Tiwary or Rajat Bhatia have got just 2-3 chances so far because the top order was doing so well.”

It’s so dangerous to talk about trends in this format of the game that you just have to take Sehwag’s point at face value. The difference between Delhi, who are looking just a touch vulnerable and tense at the moment – they were stretched in defence of a healthy 194 by a Hyderabad team that has been losing to all comers – and Mohali, is the winning habit.

While Delhi tasted success early in the tournament, they went four games without picking up a point till finally breaking loose and reaching 10 points. However, Sachin Tendulkar’s return has pumped Mumbai up and Delhi have to play out of their skins in their remaining four matches to get to the next round. Two wins might do the trick, but to feel safe they’ll want at least three. If Jaipur, Mohali and Chennai – the three table leaders – are making plans for how they will tackle the semifinals, Sehwag may well take a look out of their book. For in many ways the knockout phase of the tournament has already begun for Delhi.

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