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Pant, Samson gun down Gujarat

Wisden India logo Wisden India 05-05-2017 Karthik Lakshmanan

Two experienced Indian internationals in Suresh Raina and Dinesh Karthik slammed half-centuries to help Gujarat Lions post 208 for 7, but two young guns in Rishabh Pant and Sanju Samson with a combined age of 41 made it look like child’s play as Delhi Daredevils raced to a seven-wicket victory at the Feroz Shah Kotla in New Delhi on Thursday (May 4).

Pant missed his century by an agonising three runs but his brutal, fearless 97 off 43 balls, along with an elegant and stylish 31-ball 61 from Samson, crushed Gujarat’s total with 15 balls to spare. The pair added 143 for the second wicket, putting Raina’s 77 and Karthik’s 65 to shade, as Delhi finished on 214 for 3 in 17.3 overs.

Delhi’s chase started with Karun Nair caught-behind playing an awkward-looking hook shot in the third over, but as was the case with Gujarat earlier, it only meant their best batsman got more overs to bat.

With a massive score to chase, Pant had all the freedom to play his shots. Having come in early, he had a flat pitch and field restrictions on his side too, although it didn’t seem like he needed them. Pant was more intent on sending the ball over the ropes than to them, smacking nine sixes in all.

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Pant made his intent clear when he smacked the second ball he faced over the sweeper-cover fence. He followed it up with two more sixes off Pradeep Sangwan, as Delhi equalled Gujarat’s Power Play score – 58 - in one fewer over.

The lifting of field restrictions made little difference as Pant dealt in sixes, reaching his half-century with one such slap off Raina over deep mid-wicket. Things only got better for Delhi when Pant toyed with James Faulkner, smashing him for three sixes and a four in a 24-run 11th over.

But if one thought the Pant carnage would overshadow Samson, he was grossly mistaken. While Pant played audacious shots all over the ground, Samson relied on extension of textbook shots but got the same results.

He went past his half-century off just 24 balls with two consecutive sixes off Ravindra Jadeja, but fell to the same bowler an over later. By then, though, Delhi needed just 42 off 40 balls and the only question was whether Pant would make a century.

Pant was denied that landmark when he edged Basil Thampi to Karthik behind the stumps in the 15th over, earning several gentle pats on the helmet-protected cheeks from the opposition captain and a standing ovation from the packed house.

Earlier, it was a weird day out for Delhi’s fielders; they dropped absolute sitters, but also took stunning catches and effected brilliant run-outs in the first half of the game.

The mixed fortunes began as early as the second over. Brendon McCullum was nicely caught-behind by Pant off Kagiso Rabada and Dwayne Smith was run out by a direct hit from Shahbaz Nadeem. Delhi had their tails up, having reduced Gujarat to 10 for 2.

But it could have been so much better had Delhi held on to two simple offerings in the same over, both from Raina. Marlon Samuels, on Delhi debut, first put down the Gujarat captain at cover, before Shreyas Iyer, quite miraculously, dropped the most straightforward of catches that lobbed to him at first slip.

Raina ensured he would make the most of the reprieves, and along with Karthik, displayed a masterclass in counterattack. He took the fight to Delhi’s pacers, slamming Mohammed Shami and Rabada for 26 runs in the next two overs, and before Delhi could realise it, Gujarat raced to 58 for 2 at the end of the Power Play.

Raina enjoyed another reprieve when Samuels dropped him at mid-wicket on 40, before crossing his half-century off his 32nd ball faced.

Karthik started relatively slowly but once the spinners came on, he unleashed his hitting abilities. While Raina slammed Samuels for two sixes in an over, Karthik did the same to Nadeem.

But it was Amit Mishra who suffered the most against Karthik’s crisp shots aided by assured footwork. He cut and pulled the legspinner for fours and sixes, cruising past his 50 off just 28 balls as Gujarat crossed 140 by the 14th over.

Ironically, a couple of terrific fielding moments ended both Raina and Karthik’s stays in successive overs. Raina fell to a direct hit from point while Karthik was stunningly caught over his head following a one-handed leap by Corey Anderson at mid-off.

The scoring rate suffered a very brief fall, but cameos from Aaron Finch and Jadeja lifted Gujarat over 200. It was still nowhere near enough as Delhi’s young guns decided to fire together.

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