IPL 2017: Delhi keep Pune waiting for playoff spot


…Delhi Daredevils v Rising Pune Supergiant, IPL 2017, Delhi

By Alagappan Muthu
Delhi Daredevils 168 for 8 (Nair 64, Unadkat 2-29, Stokes 2-31) beat Rising Pune Supergiant 161 for 6 (Tiwary 64, Zaheer 2-25) by seven runs
Ajinkya Rahane was bowled by Zaheer Khan in the first ball of the chase © BCCI
ESPNcricinfo– Delhi Daredevils have, over the years, perfected the art of the bizarre, and usually that leads them to lose unlosable matches. On Friday, however, they magicked a way to defend a total of 168 even though Steven Smith appeared in top form and Ben Stokes looked like he was one hit away from finishing the game.

Rising Pune Supergiant needed 91 off 60 balls with seven wickets in hand. They brought that down to 52 off the last five overs, and then, were just shut down. Only three boundaries came in the slog overs as a highly disciplined bowling attack led by the street smart Zaheer Khan secured a memorable victory and left the opposition unsure of their place in the playoffs.

A Powerplay of two halves

At the toss, both captains said they wanted to bat, even though only once in four IPL seasons has that led to a victory at the Feroz Shah Kotla. Daredevils’ efforts to defy those stats were off to a terrible start. Sanju Samson was run-out in the first over and Shreyas Iyer caught behind in the third. The score was 11 for 2.

Rising Pune then turned to Washington Sundar because he has the second-best economy rate (7.35) among the spinners to have bowled at least 50 balls in the Powerplay. But those numbers meant nothing to Karun Nair. All he knew was he was a superb sweeper of the ball and fine leg was up inside the circle. That was the first of nine boundaries in 18 balls.

Rishabh Pant, too, received preferential treatment from the bowlers. He had come into the match making 190 of his 321 runs this season on the leg side and that’s exactly where he found 32 of his 36 runs on Sunday, including four fours and two sixes.

The squeeze

While Nair and Pant were together, they lowest a full over went for was nine runs. But once the 74-run partnership was broken, Pune regained control. The new batsman Marlon Samuels could make only three runs in his first 10 balls. He fell top-edging to MS Dhoni, who had to run back, jump up, extend his right hand as far as it could go. Such acrobatics weren’t necessary to stump Corey Anderson; just fast hands and a sixth sense for when the batsman’s back foot lifted up as he overbalanced.

All the while the set batsman Nair could only watch from the other end. He faced only 11 deliveries in five overs between the 12th and the 16th. He finished 64 off 45. His team-mates 104 off 75.

The Supergiant’s Supergiant

If Stokes raised eyebrows by becoming the auction’s costliest buy, his performance is making them disappear beyond people’s hairlines. Case in point was the catch he took in the final over. The ball was soaring over his head at midwicket, but he positioned himself on the edge of the boundary, leapt back, caught it in mid-air and threw it back up because he was going over the ropes and then came back to take the rebound.

Aside from such remarkable athleticism, there is his power hitting. He ran at Daredevils’ fastest bowler Pat Cummins and pummelled a one-bounce four to midwicket, launched Marlon Samuels’ third ball of the match over long-on and nonchalantly flicked Mohammed Shami for a six over deep square leg.

Peak Daredevilry

It was amid this carnage that a scorching yorker arrived. So good was it that Stokes, despite putting bat to it, had to worry about not being bowled. The next ball changed the game.

Shami ran in looking for the blockhole again. Stokes took a shimmy down the pitch and was surprised by a low full toss. The bat turned in his hand as his loft ended up in long-off’s hands.

By the time Dhoni was taking guard for his second delivery the required rate was 12. And before he could get set, he was caught short of his ground by a direct hit. It was only the seventh time in 141 IPL innings that he was run-out.

Daredevils bowlers were remarkable at the death. They bowled straight, gave no room and nailed the yorkers. The inherent risk in this plan is if the ball doesn’t land where it is supposed to, it can be launched halfway around the world. But the big-hitters were gone, and Manoj Tiwary, as well as he had played for his fifty, wasn’t really a threatening presence.

He managed two sixes to start the last over to tempt the Pune fans, but Cummins closed the game out with a slew of 145 kph yorkers.

Alagappan Muthu is a sub-editor at ESPNcricinfo


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