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Classy Rahane steers Pune to handy win

Wisden India logo Wisden India 05-05-2016
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Ajinkya Rahane has often waged a lone battle for Rising Pune Supergiants in the Indian Premier League 2016 without commensurate reward. On Thursday (May 5), he found the support that was not always forthcoming, as the down-on-their-luck side brought the high-flying Delhi Daredevils crashing down to earth with a seven-wicket victory at the Ferozeshah Kotla.

Batting first, a series of cameos had kept Delhi afloat to drive them to 162 for 7, a none-too-formidable score on the surface. Rahane’s typically cultured 63 not out off 48 balls ensured Pune got to 166 for 3, one ball into the final over, to not only keep their campaign alive but also inject morale into a team that sorely needed it.

Rahane had looked fluent from the start, and Delhi – who were captained by JP Duminy with Zaheer Khan nursing a niggle – were sloppy in the field and seemed a trifle bereft of ideas. Delhi had made four changes, opting to go without Quinton de Kock, Chris Morris and Shahbaz Nadeem too, and that perhaps played some part in their downfall. For Pune, the newly arrived duo of Usman Khawaja and George Bailey both played.

Delhi’s innings began with Rishabh Pant, their hero from the last match against Gujarat Lions, finding that a new day brought a drastic change of fortunes, with a succession of dot balls resulting in him trying to deposit Ashok Dinda over cow corner but having his stumps rearranged. The arrival of Karun Nair perked the scoring up, and the compact Karnataka batsman looked at ease from the moment he fiercely cut his first ball for four to third-man. Nair was in command against the seam bowlers, taking fours off Dinda and Scott Boland. The arrival of the slower bowlers pulled things back a bit, with Nair and Duminy working the ball more than smashing it after Sanju Samson’s wicket had left Delhi 48 for 2 in six overs.

Delhi’s innings began with Rishabh Pant, their hero from the last match against Gujarat Lions, finding that a new day brought a drastic change of fortunes, with a succession of dot balls resulting in him trying to deposit Ashok Dinda over cow corner but having his stumps rearranged. The arrival of Karun Nair perked the scoring up, and the compact Karnataka batsman looked at ease from the moment he fiercely cut his first ball for four to third-man. Nair was in command against the seam bowlers, taking fours off Dinda and Scott Boland. The arrival of the slower bowlers pulled things back a bit, with Nair and Duminy working the ball more than smashing it after Sanju Samson’s wicket had left Delhi 48 for 2 in six overs.

Duminy stuck around for almost an hour, but couldn’t push on. Overall, Delhi’s innings was a stop-start one. While Nair, Billings and Brathwaite were in the middle, they hurtled along at express speed. For the other batsmen, run-scoring wasn’t all that easy, with Pune’s slower bowlers inducing patches of run-strangulation. From the sixth over to the 12th, only 35 runs were conceded, overs 14 and 15 yielded only 11 runs and perhaps most crucially, overs 17 to 19 brought only 19 runs. The other two low-scoring blocks had yielded a wicket each, but in the end-overs, three wickets were lost as Pune not only robbed Delhi of momentum by denying runs, but always had new men at the crease who were under pressure to hit out from the get go. Bhatia ended with 2 for 22 while Boland, who got Brathwaite and Duminy off consecutive balls, had 2 for 31.

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Delhi’s score was below-par considering the conditions and the fact that Pune’s batting was their stronger suit by far. They needed wickets up front to make a contest of it, but instead, Rahane and Khawaja gave them a platform of a 59-run opening stand. Rahane was fluent from the start, while Khawaja – in his first IPL innings ever – was a mixture of nerves and gorgeous drives. The Australian left-hand batsman enjoyed as many as four let-offs. He was dropped by a diving Brathwaite on 8, reprieved when well short of his crease by Duminy missing the stumps from mid-on, let off with Samson missing a stumping on 22 and again survived a run-out chance when way short, Mohammed Shami failing to throw down the stumps after a mid-pitch tangle. He couldn’t make his fortune count though, an Amit Mishra googly deceiving him for Samson to complete the stumping this time.

Saurabh Tiwary joined Rahane and once again, though the duo weren’t scoring at a frenetic pace, they did enough against an asking rate that wasn’t formidable while keeping the wickets from tumbling. By the time Tiwary was out in the 14th over, the score was already 104. MS Dhoni ensured there would no dip in the rate – one monstrous hit off Pawan Negi particularly standing out because it hit the top tier – and Delhi’s inability to break a partnership early enough meant Pune were always in control of the chase.

Imran Tahir gave Delhi some hope with two consecutive overs that went for six runs each, but inexplicably – with 37 needed from 18, Shami was brought back. In an over that included five wides, Dhoni also smashed a four and a six to bring the equation to 17 from two, and though Dhoni was caught brilliantly by Billings on the midwicket fence, it didn’t alter the result.

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