Daredevils test for Challengers

Facing elimination, Bangalore outfit will be playing for pride


There will be the pressure to win, of course, as there is in any game of cricket, but if they are brutally honest with themselves, the Challengers will realise that plenty of pride -- and not too much else, come to think of it -- will be at stake when they square off against formidable Delhi Daredevils at the Chinnaswamy stadium on Saturday.
Not all is lost for Anil Kumble’s men who, while seriously flirting with elimination, still can make the semifinals on a technicality if everything goes their way. The other results aren’t in the realm of the controllable so far as the Challengers are concerned, so the only option available to them is to show their numerous faithfuls that Thursday’s no-show was nothing more than an aberration.

That, needless to say, will be easier said than done against an explosive Daredevils set-up keen to ensure that on the Festival of Lights, the fireworks aren’t restricted to merely off the field.

Even on the remarkably strokeplay-inhibiting Feroze Shah Kotla strip, Virender Sehwag had showcased his unique talent in breathtaking fashion against the Wayamba Elevens the other night. What he can accomplish on a truer surface if he gets going is mind-boggling. Allied with the potential for destruction the likes of skipper Gautam Gambhir and Tillakaratne Dilshan, neither yet to hit top gear, carry with them, Daredevils bring with them a touch of the cavalier and flamboyant, a potent concoction the Challengers will be hard pressed to rein in.

From a tournament perspective, the face-off is more important for the Daredevils than the Challengers, even if both are in a must-win situation. Defeat will certainly mean curtains for the Challengers, while the Daredevils will find themselves perilously close to elimination if they don’t accrue their first points on the morrow.

Before the two IPL teams take the field lies the little matter of the Bushrangers running into Cape Cobras in the afternoon. If the Cobras win the contest, then the Challengers’ campaign will have ended even before the toss for the second game, which will mean they can at best play party-poopers by putting it past the Daredevils.
The Cobras should consider distinctly lucky to have carried two points into the League Phase, even if luck had no more than a marginal role to play in Jean-Paul Duminy’s wondrous 99 not out in a high-pressure run-chase against the Challengers in the tournament opener. Outplayed in most departments, the Cobras rode solely on the left-hander’s brilliance to notch up a thrilling win, a result that has put them on the verge of a semifinal berth.

Any indiscretions will be seriously punished by Cameron White’s Bushrangers, buoyed by Thursday’s seven-wicket win and smug in the knowledge that they have a foot and a half in the last four. It should make for a cracking contest. Or, rather, the first of two cracking contests on an evening of deafening sound and blinding light.

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