On Rishabh Pant’s birthday and in the 50th match of this edition of the Indian Premier League, Delhi Capitals notched up their 100th win of the competition. As is the case in this format, for some time it didn’t look that way.

Set 137 to win by Chennai Super Kings, DC looked to be motoring along thanks in the main to Shikhar Dhawan playing a good hand. But when Mooen Ali timed his jump to perfection to catch Dhawan off Shardul Thakur, DC had lost three wickets for six runs and suddenly it seemed the match had slipped from their grasp.


Dhawan was striking the ball beautifully from the off and took 21 off Deepak Chahar in the fifth over, hitting him for 6, 4, 4, 6 off the first four balls. Prithvi Shaw and Pant had played useful cameos but really it was Shimron Hetmyer’s 18-ball 28 (2×4, 1×6) that took DC home. “I am paid to finish games,” Hetmyer said after the three-wicket win that took DC to the top of the standings.

Hetmyer broke the shackles in the 18th over, an audacious attempt that flew past bowler Dwayne Bravo’s head which was followed by a hoik that should have been an easy catch for substitute fielder Krishnappa Gowtham but fetched a four. A six off Josh Hazelwood released the pressure further but with six needed off the final over, Axar Patel fell. Kagiso Rabada though ensured there wouldn’t be another twist to the tale.

For once, CSK had an early wobble. That meant with three balls less than 12 overs to go, MS Dhoni walked out after Robin Uthappa fell. CSK were 62/4 and a rebuild was needed because IPL has enough examples of teams imploding from such situations. Look no further than Sunrisers Hyderabad against Kolkata Knight Riders on the same Dubai pitch on Sunday. Or Punjab Kings against Mumbai Indians in Abu Dhabi.

So Dhoni and Ambati Rayudu set out to stem the rot. It is a measure of how difficult scoring was and how far the mighty have fallen that Dhoni made a 27-ball 18 with no fours or sixes. Dhoni failed to score off the first three balls of the 14th over, unable to pierce the field Rabada had set for the white-ball game’s best finisher. And he couldn’t connect while trying to pull the South African quick in the 17th over. It was the pull, or the idea of the shot, that finally undid Dhoni in the 20th over, Pant pouching the inside edge off Avesh Khan. That meant Ravindra Jadeja, who took 20 off four Prasidh Krishna (KKR pacer) deliveries in the 19th over and pretty much won that game, got only two deliveries and Bravo none.

If CSK got to 136/5 it was because of Ambati Rayudu. Openers Ruturaj Gaikwad and Faf du Plessis were gone by the fifth over and given that the pair had scored almost 46% of CSK’s runs, it was always going to be hard for them to post a competitive score. Du Plessis may have been slightly unlucky in finding Shreyas Iyer on the midwicket fence given that he was the only one patrolling the area but Gaikwad, century-maker two nights before, fell to one that was too fast from Anrich Nortje to be pulled. Ali too fell to a casual shot and Uthappa, playing his first match, chose the wrong option to a Ravichandran Ashwin carom ball.

In such a situation, Rayudu’s 43-ball 55 (4×5; 6×2) was priceless. He too had his share of misses and runs were so hard to come by that it seemed inconceivable CSK had scored 16 off the first over. There were no boundaries for six overs at one point. But then CSK got 14 runs in the 18th and the 19th overs, Rayudu getting 26 of them. A Dhawan misfield on the square-leg fence fetched Rayudu a four off Khan, and two balls later Rayudu swung a six—the innings’ first. Next over, bowled by Nortje, Rayudu sitting deep in his crease hit a six over cover that was possibly the shot of the match. Rayudu ended the over with a slashed four past point to bring up his half-century.

Khan conceded only four off the last over as DC capped off a good bowling performance where the only blemish possibly was six wides, two each from Nortje, Khan and Ashwin. With figures of 4-0-18-2, Axar Patel was the pick of the bowlers, dismissing Du Plessis and Ali. He and Ashwin had choked the runs with Pant introducing spin from both ends from the sixth over. It looked like they had done a good job. Dhoni accepted as much, saying CSK had targeted 150 on what was a “two-paced wicket.”


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