Pant lights up an epic game, Capitals progress

Rishabh Pant (BCCI

Delhi Capitals 165 for 8 (Shaw 56, Pant 49, Rashid 2-15) beat Sunrisers Hyderabad 162 for 5 (Guptill 36, Paul 3-32) by two wickets


Rishabh Pant flays one through the offside (BCCI)

Sunrisers Hyderabad played almost the perfect experience game after losing the toss, but made one big mistake in the 18th over to give Delhi Capitals their first win in the 12-year history of IPL playoffs. Capitals played some sublime cricket at times, but nearly bottled it in the end after Rishabh Pant took 22 off the 18th over to turn it into what should have been a cakewalk.

On a slow pitch that was described as “tacky” by both captains, Sunrisers were disadvantaged by having to bat first, but their experience showed in how they found their way to what they thought was a winning total of 162. It looked like that for a major part of the first 17 overs of their defence, but Basil Thampi bowling ahead of in-form Khaleel Ahmed proved to be the gamebreaker.

Guptill goes big in Powerplay

Sunrisers knew this pitch would be difficult to score on in the middle overs so Martin Guptill had the license to play big shots while the ball was new. He tucked into Trent Boult, whom he was facing for the first time in a competitive T20 match, after having dismissed Ishant Sharma from his presence. Ishant bowled a pretty good sixth over – the most difficult over statistically – but was let down by some nervous fielding.

Sunrisers made their way to 54 for 1 in the Powerplay, but Guptill kept on with his aggressive intent. He strikes at over 8.5 an over against legspin in all T20 and at above 9 an over in the IPL, but when he went after Amit Mishra in the seventh over, the lack of bounce and pace meant he only managed to hit the shot off the toe end, offering a simple catch to deep square midwicket. Sunrisers 56 for 1 in the seventh over.

The spin choke

Axar Patel and Mishra against a predominantly right-hand batting unit on a turning track was always going to be a difficult proposition. Had Manish Pandey and Kane Williamson tried anything too fancy, there was a very good chance Sunrisers might have lost the game in this spell. They chose to respect the bowlers and wait for the quicker ones to come back. Mishra, second-best among all bowlers when it comes to balls per boundary this season, bowled his four overs without conceding a single four or six. The middle overs produced just two boundaries, but Sunrisers did well to lose just one wicket in this period. Sunrisers 104 for 3 in 15 overs.

The final kick

Now Sunrisers finally got pace on ball. Capitals had in their ranks Ishant and Boult, whose economy rates at the death are among the five worst of the bowlers who’ve bowled more than 40 overs in this phase in the IPL. Ishant went for 11, Boult for 14, and almost everybody in the lower middle order played a role in taking Sunrisers to 162. It was a good score on a low pitch, especially if there was no dew and if Sunrisers could limit the damage in the Powerplay.

Shaw steals Powerplay

Prithvi Shaw has been dismissed 10 times inside the Powerplay this season, the highest for any batsman, but there is a good reason for it: he has stuck to his role selflessly. Shikhar Dhawan is the one to bat through, Shaw the one to create the impact in the Powerplay. And he created some impact in this Powerplay by taking 39 off 24 balls. This involved dismantling Bhuvneshwar Kumar and hitting three fours off a Khaleel over.

Sunrisers were forced to bowl Rashid inside the Powerplay; his excellent sixth over went for just six, but Capitals had scored 55 in the first six.

Sunrisers claw back

The towels were out – although they weren’t unduly in use – and the pitch seemed to have quickened up, but Sunrisers managed to stay in the hunt. Deepak Hooda got an over to produce the bonus wicket of Dhawan. Sunrisers now didn’t go looking for wickets. They tried to take the game deep, waiting for Capitals’ inexperience to show up. It turned up in the 11th over when both Shreyas Iyer and Shaw – 56 out of the 87 scored till then – fell in the same Khaleel over.

The Rashid gambit

Williamson was in no mood to sit back now. He had new batsmen at the wicket, and he went all out with Rashid. Even though his third over didn’t bring a wicket, Williamson took the bold call to finish his quota off with five overs to spare. Rashid repaid the faith, bowling a double-wicket maiden, taking out Colin Munro and Axar Patel. With 52 required off the last five and a lot of monsters of botched-up chases in their closet, Capitals were somewhat the underdogs now.

Thampi ahead of Khaleel

Two more good overs followed. Now it was 34 off three overs. Khaleel had two left, Bhuvneshwar one. It would have made sense to bowl them, but Williamson took the gamble of going with Thampi. Not only was the choice of the bowler wrong, he also executed poorly. He bowled length from round the wicket. Before this innings, Pant had hit 13 sixes off pace this IPL, all over the leg side. It would have made sense to bowl over the wicket and angle it away from his arc; this played right into Pant’s hand. It was now down to 12 off 12 after the carnage in this over.

Never straightforward with Capitals

Now Capitals began to mess up. First Pant got out trying to finish it with a six, leaving his side five to win off seven. Then some nervous swings and one obstruct-the-field later, it was all twos. Two balls, two runs required, two wickets in hand. Keemo Paul, though, managed to hit the fifth ball wide enough of deep midwicket to take Capitals through to the second Qualifier against Chennai Super Kings. The animated celebration of Ricky Ponting, who has won just about everything there is to win in cricket, showed how much it meant to them. (ESPNCricinfo)


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