Dharamshala, May 14: Their chances of making the play-offs still alive, Kings XI Punjab will be aiming for a third victory on the trot when they take on the out of contention Delhi Daredevils in an Indian Premier League match here tomorrow.
The contest between these two sides with contrasting ambitions and fortunes is the first IPL match to be hosted by this picturesque hill-town this season.
For Punjab, the match is an opportunity to inch closer to a playoff berth, but for Delhi it is about trying to ensure a decent end to what has been a disastrous campaign.
Punjab's campaign was also in doldrums till recently when they succumbed to five straight losses but the team has sprung back to life with successive wins over table-toppers Mumbai Indians and Kochi Tuskers Kerala.
The good news for Punjab is that the middle-order, which seemed brittle for most part of the tournament and relied too much on good starts from skipper Adam Gilchrist and Paul Valthty, finally struck form last night against Kerala.
Although Shaun Marsh had been top-performer for Punjab, he just didn't get good support on most ocassions but with Dinesh Karthik and David Hussey rediscovering some form last night, Punjab's batting looks more formidable now.
Even if three of these five batsmen manage to get an innings of significance, Delhi's bowlers would be scurrying for cover in the small Himachal Pradesh Cricket Association Ground.
The batting prowess, however, cannot hide Punjab's shortcomings in the bowling department.
Ryan Harris has not producced the express pace that would intimidate batsmen while Piyush Chawla, who was dropped from the Indian squad for the tour of West Indies, has been a letdown in the spin department.
While Punjab have been on the road to recovery, it has been all downhill for Delhi and adding injury to insult is the absence of regular captain Virender Sehwag, who is out with a shoulder problem.
Led by Australian all-rounder James Hopes, Delhi would be aiming to avoid a third straight defeat after going down to Chennai Super Kings and Mumbai Indians in their last two outings.
Save for Australian swahsbuckler David Warner, who is also out of form, Delhi does not have a batsman who can inspire the line-up or cause any concern in the opposition camp.
The team looks a bits and pieces combination and it would be a major surprise if it manages to hold its own against Punjab.
Even though Venugopal Rao has had a decent run with the bat, Delhi just don't have the firewpower to unsettle rivals.
All-rounder Irfan Pathan has been a flop with the ball for most of the IPL though he managed to strike form with the bat in their previous match against Chennai Super Kings.
Their bowling has no big names to talk about and it would be quite a task for the likes of Andrew McDonald and Ajit Agarkar to tackle aggressors such as Gilchrist and Marsh tomorrow.
The Teams (from):
Delhi Daredevils: James Hopes (capt), Irfan Pathan, Naman Ojha, Ajit Agarkar, Ashok Dinda, Umesh Yadav, Venugopal Rao, Aavishkar Salvi, Prashant Naik, Rajesh Pawar, Robin Bist, S Sriram, Tejaswi Yadav, Unmukh Chand, Varun Aaron, Vikas Mishra, Vivek Yadav, Yogesh Nagar, Shahbaz Nadeem, David Warner, Morne Morkel, Aaron Finch, Mathew Wade, Roelof van der Merwe, Andrew McDonald, Travis Birt, Colin Ingram, Robert Frylinck.
Kings XI Punjab: Adam Gilchrist (capt), Dinesh Karthik, Abhishek Nayar, Praveen Kumar, Piyush Chawla, Bhargav Bhatt, Bipul Sharma, Love Ablish, Mandeep Singh, Nitin Saini, Paras Dogra, Paul Valthaty, Shalabh Srivastava, Siddharth Chitnis, Sunny Singh, Vikramjeet Malik, Amit Yadav, Shaun Marsh, David Hussey, Nathan Rimmongton, Ryan Harris, Ryan McLaren, David Miller. PTI