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Battle of bottom-rankers as Delhi, Pune fight it out

May 20, 2011 11:10 IST

Bruised and battered after being at the receiving end for a major part of the past 42 days, both Delhi Daredevils and Pune Warriors would look to finish the Indian Premier League on a positive note when they face off in their last match of the season, in New Delhi on Saturday.

In the battle of two bottom-placed teams, a lot will depend on the kind of start the openers provide.

In the absence of big-hitting opener Virender Sehwag, the Daredevils have struggled upfront and as a result, the middle order too found it difficult to handle the pressure.

Till a shoulder injury ruled him out of the tournament, Sehwag's form was linked to Delhi's success and whenever the opener fired the team fared better.

Since Sehwag's departure, stand-in captain James Hopes has struggled to lead a team that has some talented youngsters such as Naman Ojha and Varun Aaron in its ranks, but lacks seasoned campaigners like some of the others teams.

On a comeback trail, Irfan Pathan has shone in patches giving the team breakthroughs besides producing some cameos with the willow, but has lacked consistency.

Pathan bowled with enough zeal in the last match, against Kings XI Punjab, picking up three wickets including those of Paul Valthaty and the in-form Shaun marsh.

The left-arm seamer's partner, Morne Morkel too has failed to live up to the expectations, with the opposition batsmen often picking him for easy runs.

Young Aaron has raw pace but when it comes to variety, he still has some way to go.

The Daredevils also missed a quality spinner, so important in this part of the world.

Resorting to the likes of Yogesh Nagar and Sreedharan Sriram was never going to get them wickets at regular intervals or, for that matter, check the flow of runs.

The Daredevils' biggest let-down this season, however, has been the batsmen's none-too-impressive showing. Promoted to open the innings in the absence of Sehwag, Ojha's partnership with David Warner did not really set the stage on fire.

What must have hurt the team even more is that Warner's form dipped as the tournament progressed. Venugopal Rao often looked like playing the lone ranger's role but that did not bring the team victory.

As far as the Warriors are concerned, they too struggled to strike the right chord in the tournament.

Nine defeats and four wins -- the same as the daredevils -- was not what the debutants hoped for at the start of the tournament.

After his man-of-the-tournament-winning showing in the World Cup, Pune skipper Yuvraj Singh was expected to continue with his dream run, but the script didn't pan out the way the left-hander would have wanted.

Even Sourav Ganguly's inclusion in the squad failed to turn the tide in his team's favour.

The prince of Kolkata proved a point to all those who ignored him in the auction by scoring a run-a-ball 32 in the team's win against Deccan Chargers, but wasted a decent start to be dismissed for 18 against his former team Kolkata Knight Riders.

After missing out against KKR, Ganguly would be eager to end the campaign with a significant knock.

What must have hit Pune hard was the performance of young Turks like Manish Pandey and Robin Uthappa.

Both Pandey and Uthappa, who caught everyone's attention with their power hitting in the previous edition, looked a far cry this time around.

Similar was the case with Callum Ferguson and opener Jesse Ryder, who has just one half-century under his belt.

In the bowling front, Rahul Sharma with his 14 wickets without any doubt has been the find of the IPL.

So impressive has been his bowling that the leg spinner has managed to earn words of encouragement from none other than Sachin Tendulkar.

But for his team to finish an otherwise poor campaign with a win, the Warriors will have to click as a team. And the same goes for the Daredevils also.

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