New Delhi:With the rain playing killjoy, threats of a downpour - and not the blazing blades of Sachin Tendulkar or Sanath Jayasuriya - remain the cloud on the horizon for Delhi Daredevils in their now-or-never Indian Premier League tie against Mumbai Indians on Saturday.
The Daredevils found them at the receiving end of the weather god's vagaries in their home match against Kings XI Punjab. Skipper Virender Sehwag lit up the May 17 match with his batting pyrotechnics before heavens opened up and the hosts went down via Duckworth-Lewis method in the rain-truncated encounter.
And it was worse on Thursday as their match with the Kolkata Knight Riders was washed away without a ball being bowl.
While it slammed the semifinal door on the face of the Kolkata side, the Daredevils didn't benefit either and nothing short of a win in their final league match can see them through to the last-four stage.
With 13 points from as many outings, the Daredevils are placed fourth on the table, while Mumbai trail by just one point, having played 11 matches so far. A win on Saturday would swell Delhi's tally to 15 but the visitors can still pip them to the post if they win their last two matches.
And a washout on Saturday would mean Mumbai would need to win just one match to breeze into the semifinals.
As skipper of the home side, Sehwag would be saddled with a brittle middle order, even though he tries to gloss over the side's over-reliance on the top order.
The Daredevils never looked like losing as long as Sehwag, Gautam Gambhir and Shikhar Dhawan wielded the willow. But once the top three were back in the hut, they looked a different side altogether. Shoaib Malik has been a dud with the bat, while Manoj Tiwary or Rajat Bhatia could not set alight the tournament so far.
Fortunately, there is no such worries with the bowling attack, where Glenn McGrath has been outstanding in the company of able pace allies in Ferveez Maharoof and Mohammad Asif. Leggie Amit Mishra has claimed bagful of wickets since his late IPL debut and he would once again prove a handful for the Mumbai Indians.
The visitors, however, don't lack firepower either. They woke up late in the tournament but once they got going, there was no stopping them. Six wins on the trot revived their campaign even though they were clearly unlucky to lose their last match to Kings XI Punjab, which snapped the winning streak.
Tendulkar and Jayasuriya walking out to open the innings is enough to send shivers down the spine of any attack and both are looking in good nick. Robin Uthappa has not yet lived up to the expectation but he remains a dangerous customer with the bat, while local boy Abhishek Nayar has already made his mark.
Their bowling, however, relies too much on Shaun Pollock, even though Ashish Nehra has been among the wickets as well. Nehra, in fact, would be keen to make a statement tomorrow when he bowls to some of his Ranji teammates.
While tomorrow's match would be a no-holds-barred battle between two sides desperate to move ahead at each other's cost, it would also offer an interesting sideshow featuring the rival captains.
Sehwag burst into the scene as a Tendulkar clone before carving a distinct identity for himself, but Saturday's battle for one-upmanship between the mentor and prot g would leave little space for niceties.
Tendulkar would also figure in another interesting personal battle that pits him against old nemesis McGrath. The beanpole Aussie has been parsimony personified and managed to keep his reputation intact even in this slam-bang version, while Tendulkar has got into the groove after his belated IPL debut. The battle between the old masters is sure to liven up the Ferozeshah Kotla with both eager to have the last laugh.
Delhi Daredevils: Virender Sehwag (Captain), Rajat Bhatia, AB de Villiers, Shikhar Dhawan, Tillakaratne Dilshan, Gautam Gambhir, Dinesh Karthik, Glenn McGrath, Farveez Maharoof, V Yo Mahesh, Mithun Manhas, Amit Mishra, Mohammad Asif, Pradeep Sangwan, Shoaib Malik, Manoj Tiwary.
Mumbai Indians: Sachin Tendulkar (Captain), Siddharth Chitnis, Dilhara Fernando, Sanath Jayasuriya, Dhawal Kulkarni, Abhishek Nayar, Ashish Nehra, Rajesh Pawar, Shaun Pollock, Rohan Raje, Pinal Shah, Dwayne Smith, Yogesh Takawale, Dominic Thornely, Saurabh Tiwary, Robin Uthappa, Vikrant Yeligati, Andre Nel.