Vijay Hazare Trophy: Rishi Dhawan the difference between HP and Services 

In the semifinal, Services leaked runs towards the end of HP’s innings and it proved costly. 

Rishi Dhawan was the difference between Himachal Pradesh and Services in the Vijay Hazare Trophy semifinal on Friday.   -  FILE PHOTO/N. SUDARSHAN

Rishi Dhawan wasn’t needed much with bat and ball in the quarterfinal against Uttar Pradesh as Prashant Chopra and his seamers – in particular Vinay Galetia – did the job for him. In the semifinal against Services on Friday, however, an extra helping hand was needed, and it came in the form of captain Rishi Dhawan, whose blistering 84 was the difference between the two sides. 

Dhawan’s innings wasn’t flawless. He came in to bat in the 25th over and narrowly survived when batting on 3, nearly guiding a delivery from Diwesh Pathania to the hands of the wicketkeeper. Later, Abhishek Tiwari, the third seamer, cut him into half with a back-of-a-length delivery angling into the right hander. Dhawan was lucky not to get an inside edge on it.

READ: Rishi Dhawan sparkles again as HP squashes Services in semifinal

But his intent was clear: to take his chances and increase the scoring rate which hovered around 4 for much of HP’s innings. He stepped down the track to seamers, cleared his front leg to spinners for the slog sweep, and played some unorthodox strokes, too. And gained an able ally in Akash Vashisht who revelled in his almighty heaves, pulls and slogs.  

The result was that HP had added 101 runs in the last 10 overs and 74 in the last six. It made all the difference. Services captain Rajat Paliwal admitted as much after the 77-run defeat: “Rishi Dhawan played really well, and the extra 25-30 runs we gave towards the end proved costly. A target of 250-260 would have been gettable.” 

Contrary to how it appeared when Dhawan and Vashisht were batting, the pitch wasn’t a flat one. In no other period during the game were runs scored so freely, and Services’ top-order pair of Paliwal and Ravi Chauhan could hardly hit boundaries at all when they batted between overs 12.2 and 24.4 during the chase. 

“We had lost two wickets and they were bowling in good areas. We didn’t want to take undue risks, they bowled well, no doubt, but it wasn’t as if we had decided not to hit boundaries. We needed to build a partnership, basically, to get us closer,” Paliwal said. 

Their best efforts weren’t enough as the target of 282 proved to be too steep, the required run-rate climbing to about 11 after the 40th over. Yet, the score at this point – 174 for 5 – wasn’t far away from HP’s score after 40 overs – 180 for 4.  

Could the Services' seamers have bowled better towards the end? Maybe. But whatever the reasons, it was a contest decided mainly by one phase of play. 

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