Now two weeks into the 2016 Indian Premier League, still only four points separate top from bottom in a tightly packed table. With no team sweeping all before them or being cast adrift at the bottom, the clearest trend so far has been that batting second is the way to go. Remarkably, Royal Challengers Bangalore’s victory over Rising Pune Supergiants on Friday was just the second time in 16 matches that a team batting first had emerged victorious.
That fact will surely be on the captains’ minds this weekend, when all eight teams will be in action and looking to enhance their prospects of finishing in the top four and securing a playoff berth.
Delhi Daredevils vs. Mumbai Indians (Saturday, 6:30 a.m. EDT)
Not since 2012, the last time they reached the playoffs, have Delhi Daredevils won three straight matches in the IPL. But that is the achievement that now awaits them if they can knock off 2015 champions Mumbai Indians at home at the Feroz Shah Kotla. After an emphatic opening defeat to Kolkata Knight Riders, Daredevils have responded impressively, and last time out trumped the firepower of Royal Challengers, thanks to a century from South African Quinton de Kock. Mumbai’s last outing was also a win over Royal Challengers, yet their start to the campaign has been less impressive. Three defeats from their first four games left them in an early hole, although captain Rohit Sharma’s move to opening the batting last time out has perhaps provided a blueprint to return to the form that took them to the title last season.
Sunriseres Hyderabad vs. Kings XI Punjab (Saturday, 10:30 a.m. EDT)
After finishing a long way adrift at the bottom of the table a year ago, Kings XI again find themselves in the basement. South African David Miller and Australian Glenn Maxwell have both failed to deliver on high expectations thus far. And, although they bounced back from two defeats to get their first win against Rising Pune Supergiants, Kings XI returned to losing ways with an emphatic defeat to Knight Riders on Tuesday. In contrast, Sunrisers Hyderabad should be on a high. While they started with two losses, they have bounced back with two impressive wins over Mumbai Indians and the previously unbeaten Gujarat Lions. That revival has been led by captain David Warner, who has 235 runs in just four innings.
Gujarat Lions vs. Royal Challengers Bangalore (Sunday, 6:30 a.m. EDT)
After such a strong start to life in the IPL, recording three straight wins to begin their debut season, Gujarat Lions must now show they can respond from their first setback. Even with 75 from captain Suresh Raina, Lions went down a 10-wicket defeat to Sunrisers on Thursday. As they look to get back to winning ways, Lions will surely be hoping for more from Brendon McCullum, who has yet to get a half-century in this season’s IPL. Lions will also have to worry about containing the Royal Challengers’ soaring batting lineup. After back-to-back defeats, Virat Kohli fired 80 and AB de Villiers 83 to down Rising Pune Supergiants on Friday. It was a victory made all the more impressive by the fact that it came without the big-hitting West Indian Chris Gayle, who returned home to attend the birth of his first child. His status for the Sunday’s match remains unclear.
Rising Pune Supergiants vs. Kolkata Knight Riders (Sunday, 10:30 a.m. EDT)
Supergiants made a winning start to their first IPL season, but is has been all downhill since with three straight defeats. Their loss to Royal Challengers on Friday contained particularly disappointment. Australia captain Steve Smith continuing his poor start to the season when slipping en route to being run out, while English veteran Kevin Pietersen had to retire with an apparent calf injury, making his participation on Sunday highly doubtful. Still, as well as 60 from Ajinkya Rahane, there was an impressive showing from Thisara Perera, who grabbed three wickets and threatened to help his side to victory with the bat after scoring 34 off 13 balls. For Mahendra Singh Dhoni’s side, though, a victory is now needed to prevent the rot setting in.
TV coverage: Viewers in the USA can watch the 2016 IPL on ESPN pay per view through DISH, Verizon FiOS, Hotwire Communications, Mediacom and RCN.
Live stream: Live streaming coverage will be available via a subscription to ESPN’s Cricket Pass.