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Marcus Stoinis is an injury doubt for Capitals, with Steve Smith the most likely replacement

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The Delhi franchise have never won the IPL, whether playing as Daredevils or Capitals, and it is becoming increasingly apparent this might be their best opportunity to change that. Their eight-wicket win against Sunrisers Hyderabad in their opening game of the UAE leg – which put them top of the points table – was a complete performance, spearheaded by Anrich Nortje’s fiery spell of 2 for 12 in four overs and sealed by the returning Shreyas Iyer, who finished unbeaten on 47 on his return from injury.

Rajasthan Royals’ first game of this phase was significantly more dramatic, Kartik Tyagi closing out an improbable, come-from-behind win against Punjab Kings after their attack had struggled for early breakthroughs while defending 185. Royals’ play-off chances looked slim heading into the second half of the season in the collective absence of Jofra Archer, Jos Buttler and Ben Stokes but they are well-placed to qualify at this stage as their young domestic core continue to step up.

Neither side is expected to make significant changes to their playing XI on the back of wins but Capitals are waiting on Marcus Stoinis‘ scan results after he limped off with a calf injury after the first ball of his second over last time out. Otherwise, they have no reason to make changes to a successful combination.

Royals, meanwhile, will be concerned by Chris Morris‘ struggles earlier this week: their big-money auction buy made five off five balls and leaked 47 runs in his four wicketless overs. Morris has shown his value with both bat and ball, particularly at the death, in recent seasons and is unlikely to lose his place after an outlay of 16.25 crore ($2.2m approx.) – Royals will hope that his slow start was simply down to a lack of recent game-time.

In the news

Stoinis’ availability is unconfirmed at this stage, though Nortje was relatively optimistic during his press conference on Friday. “He looks good,” Nortje said. “I spoke to him this morning and he seems to be fine, but they’re just waiting on some results. I think he’s gone for a scan.” If Stoinis is unfit, Steve Smith is the most likely replacement (Sam Billings is still in quarantine) though Lalit Yadav could come in to bolster the bowling attack with either Tom Curran or Ben Dwarshuis replacing a local bowler.

Likely XIs

Delhi Capitals: 1 Prithvi Shaw, 2 Shikhar Dhawan, 3 Shreyas Iyer, 4 Rishabh Pant (capt/wk), 5 Marcus Stoinis/Steven Smith, 6 Shimron Hetmyer, 7 Axar Patel, 8 R Ashwin, 9 Kagiso Rabada, 10 Anrich Nortje, 11 Avesh Khan

Rajasthan Royals: 1 Evin Lewis, 2 Yashasvi Jaiswal, 3 Sanju Samson (capt/wk), 4 Liam Livingstone, 5 Mahipal Lomror, 6 Riyan Parag, 7 Rahul Tewatia, 8 Chris Morris, 9 Chetan Sakariya, 10 Kartik Tyagi, 11 Mustafizur Rahman

Strategy punt

  • Capitals’ Achilles heel this season has been their death bowling: they are the most expensive bowling side in the final four overs of an innings, leaking 10.71 runs an over. Capitals could gamble by using Kagiso Rabada through the middle as a strike bowler but Royals’ batting line-up – which sees Morris carded at No. 8 – is well-placed to exploit that weakness.
  • Liam Livingstone has looked invincible in T20 cricket since the start of the English summer, averaging 52.62 with a strike rate of 166.73 in that timeframe, but if there is one area of vulnerability in his game, it is his record against left-arm spin. Since 2019, he averages 24.11 and scores at a strike rate of 128.52 against left-arm spinners – expect Capitals to hold back some of Axar Patel’s overs to target him in the middle overs.

Stats that matter

  • Capitals’ five-match winning streak against Royals came to an end at the Wankhede in the early stages of this season, with David Miller and Chris Morris inspiring a successful chase of 148.
  • Rishabh Pant needs 56 runs to overtake Virender Sehwag as Capitals’ all-time leading run-scorer.
  • Sanju Samson has a surprisingly poor record against Capitals, scoring 164 runs across 10 innings with a strike rate of 126.15.

Matt Roller is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo. @mroller98

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