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Pant, Delhi bowlers deliver crushing payback

Wisden India logo Wisden India 03-05-2016

Coming in to their clash against Gujarat Lions at the Saurashtra Cricket Association Stadium in Rajkot, Delhi Daredevils had won four of six matches, and remarkably enough, had found different heroes in almost each game. On Tuesday (May 3), it was the turn of the youngest member of the side to step up. Rishabh Pant, fresh from vice-captaining India to the Under-19 World Cup final, was given a go at the top of the order ahead of an out-of-form Shreyas Iyer.

Pant responded with 69 off 40 balls that settled a potentially tricky chase firmly in Delhi’s favour, the visiting side breaching the 150-run target in just 17.2 overs with eight wickets standing. The win catapulted Delhi to second on the points table in the Indian Premier League 2016.

Pant played fearlessly, setting the tone early by carting Dhawal Kulkarni for three fours in the second over, all on the off side. The first was flicked to midwicket, the second was stroked to cover and the third was slashed to point. From there, Pant never looked back.

Quinton de Kock was, for once, reduced to playing second fiddle. He was content to pick off the singles and twos with the odd boundary, leaving the heavy-hitting to Pant, who grew in confidence with every over. The end of the Power Play overs, in which Delhi amassed 61 runs, made no difference to Pant, with one Suresh Raina over taken for 16 runs and Gujarat unable to string together either dot-balls or successive boundary-free overs.

Pant got to a maiden IPL half-century with a heave-hit over long-on, getting there off only 25 balls, and it seemed like Delhi would complete the chase galloping. His fall, caught by the wicketkeeper off Ravindra Jadeja, halted the momentum somewhat, but with the openers putting on 115 in 13.3 overs, the result was a foregone conclusion. Not even de Kock’s wicket, holing out off Shivil Kaushik’s chinaman bowling for 46, would alter the script, though Gujarat could have run Delhi closer if Jadeja had not over-stepped while getting Sanju Samson out stumped.

Gujarat also payed for some strange decisions on the field, with Jadeja introduced into the attack only in the 14th over, and making an immediate impact. The home team had strengthened their batting – the fit-again Aaron Finch returning to take the place of an injured Dwayne Bravo – but, in the absence of the West Indian, could have done with the addition of a bowler too.

As it turned out, even the addition of the man who had got them off to a rocket start wasn’t enough to prevent a second successive top-order collapse.

The wickets went to Shahbaz Nadeem, who bowled well, and Zaheer Khan, who was the master strategist. Nadeem was unlucky not to get Brendon McCullum out in the very first over, the umpire turning down an lbw appeal. McCullum couldn’t make his good fortune count however, done in masterfully by Zaheer in the third over. The Delhi captain set an elaborate field, putting three men behind the wicket, inside the circle on the offside, only to bluff McCullum with a slower delivery that took out off stump.

In the next over, Nadeem took out both Dwayne Smith and Finch, and Delhi slid from 17 without loss in the third over to 24 for 3 in four overs. Much depended on Suresh Raina, but once again in this tournament, the Gujarat captain fell after getting off to a start, done in by a smart bit of bowling from Amit Mishra. Raina had stepped out, but the bowler spotted the advance and adjusted his line quickly to go wide, allowing de Kock to complete the stumping. Raina had made 24 off 20 – the seventh time in nine innings that he fell for a score between 15 and 35.

It was left to Dinesh Karthik to provide the solidity in the middle, while Jadeja rediscovered the batsman within him to take Delhi to a total of some respectability. Karthik started off cautiously but expanded his range of strokes as the innings progressed, doing the crucial job of holding one end up even while not being so slow as to bring the run-scoring to a crawl.

Karthik was part of both half-century stands for Gujarat, adding 51 in seven overs with Raina and then 52 in 6.3 overs with Jadeja. When he fell for a 43-ball 53, bowled by Mohammed Shami, Gujarat had crossed the 120-run mark. Some big-hitting by Jadeja on his home ground pushed Gujarat to 149 for 7, but on a pitch that stayed largely true and against an in-form line-up, that was never going to be enough.

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