After the kind of auction they had and accident to Rishabh Pant meant Delhi Capitals were going to find themselves in a muddle this season, and their opening fixture against Lucknow Super Giants exemplified it. Despite starting well, they faltered. The bowlers did not let them down. It was their sloppy fielding that let the momentum shift.
A catch-drop of Kyle Mayers when he was on 14 cost them extra 59 runs. Adding to that, another nine runs through misfield saw them concede 194 runs. Both captains agreed it was 25-30 runs above par in the post-match presentation.
Even Ricky Ponting, Delhi's head coach, expressed his anguish. "Looking at the wicket today, I didn't think it was a 190-plus wicket. There was a lot of dew there. It was probably better for us batting second on that wicket," said in the post-match press conference.
However, two things could bring them some cheer in the Delhi dugout. One is Anrich Nortje's return if he is available for selection, and the other is their home advantage.
On the other hand, defending champions Gujarat Titans had a near-flawless victory in their opener. There were a few anxious moments, but Gujarat, as always, snatched a win from the jaws of defeat.
Things to watch out for
The masters of a chase
Is Gujarat invincible while chasing? Well, their record says so. Only one loss in 10 games while chasing is a massive achievement. Among teams who have chased in 10 or more matches in the IPL, their win percentage of 90 percent is the highest. They have won four games out of seven while batting first.
The success behind their chase lies at the start and the end. They usually get off to a good start in the first six overs. Gujarat bats at a run rate of 7.1 while batting first. In contrast, the run rate shoots up to 8.4 when batting second. In the last five overs, the run rate is 9.5 in the first compared to 11.4 in the second. The bottom line is that they are a better team when they know the target.
Axar's stock as a batter rises but goes down as a bowler
The last two years have been different for Axar Patel. His stock as a player has undoubtedly gone up, but mainly as a batter.
In the IPL from 2020 to 2021, Axar's bowling was top-notch. In 27 matches, he had 24 wickets at an economy of 6.5 and had a wicket every 24.3 balls and 26.4 runs. With the bat, he had an average of 12.1 and a strike rate of 119.8.
However, since 2022, there has been a role reversal. With the bat, Axar averages 39.6 with the bat and strikes at 151.2. But with the ball, he has only seven wickets at an average of 51.3, an economy of 7.6, and a strike rate of 40.3.
Khaleel's fourth over struggle
The biggest problem for Khaleel Ahmed in IPL since 2020 is he can't end on a high note. In his first three overs, he has picked up 22 wickets at an average of 25.7 and an economy of 7.5.
But, in the fourth over, he conceded 11.6 runs per over. In the time mentioned earlier, among bowlers who have bowled 15+ fourth overs, only Prasidh Krishna has a poorer economy (11.8). He has conceded a boundary every 3.7 balls, the joint-worst.
The Arun Jaitley Stadium, Delhi, is a small ground. This is why teams prefer to chase, and numbers do suggest that. In 11 matches since 2019, teams chasing have won eight times. Out of those eight, four have been 170+ targets. On average, teams scored 170 runs in the first innings compared to 192 in the second.
The pacers have the edge over spinners in wickets percentage. They have picked up 57.4 percent of the wickets compared to 42.6 by spinners. But, in terms of economy and strike rate, the spinners have had the upper hand. Spinners have a bowling strike of 21 and an economy of 7.6. In comparison, pacers have bagged a wicket every 23.6 balls and conceded 8.8 runs per over.
In particular, leg spinners are the happiest. In IPL since 2019, leggies have picked up a wicket every 15.9 balls. Among the current venues (excluding Lucknow, Guwahati, and Dharamsala), only left-arm pacers (14.1) in Hyderabad have a better strike rate than leg spinners in Delhi. They have also bagged 30 percent of the wickets, which is the most for leg spinners at a venue.
-In the IPL since 2022, Prithvi Shaw has had troubles against the back of a length and short deliveries by the pacers. Five out of the seven dismissals against pacers have come from these lengths. He averages 14.6 in 42 balls, which is his lowest from a length.
-Wriddhiman Saha has been exceptional in the powerplay for Gujarat. There has been only one weakness in his armory. Against pacers, Saha has been brutal on almost lengths, but good length. When pacers land the ball on a good length area against Saha, he strikes at 100, and all his five dismissals have come from this length. On any other length, he has a strike rate of 160+.
Delhi will be delighted that their premier pacer Anrich Nortje will be available for selection. By the looks of it, he will replace Rovman Powell.
Probable XI: David Warner (c), Prithvi Shaw, Mitchell Marsh, Rilee Rossouw, Sarfaraz Khan (wk), Axar Patel, Lalit Yadav/Ripal Patel, Kuldeep Yadav, Anrich Nortje, Khaleel Ahmed, Chetan Sakariya
Gujarat was struck with a blow in their first match. Kane Williamson injured his knee while fielding and is ruled out of IPL 2023. A replacement is yet to be announced. David Miller is available for selection and will barrage into the XI.
Probable XI: Wriddhiman Saha (wk), Shubman Gill, Matthew Wade/Sai Sudarshan, Hardik Pandya (c), David Miller, Vijay Shankar, Rahul Tewatia, Rashid Khan, Mohammad Shami, Alzarri Joseph, Yash Dayal