Delhi Capitals ensured a spot in the Playoffs for the first time since 2012 with an emphatic 16-run victory over Royal Challengers Bangalore at the Ferozeshah Kotla here.
Scoring half-centuries each, Shikhar Dhawan and Shreyas Iyer laid the foundation for a strong total of 187/5 that proved adequate despite a placid pitch for a change.
Royal Challengers started well with a flurry of boundaries in the first six overs, but lost wickets consistently and by the 13th over, had lost half the side. The lower middle-order kept the side in the hunt till the penultimate over, but it was too little, too late.
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The turning point seemed to be the wicket of the in-form AB de Villiers, who was caught by the alert fielder stationed at the deep midwicket boundary – Axar Patel. After a quiet start to his innings, de Villiers pulled Sherfane Rutherford – the medium-fast bowler – hard. The ball would have travelled beyond the rope had Axar not got hold of it; he took the catch and just avoided his boot from touching the paddings. The call was close enough for the third-umpire to have to be called upon.
The innings unravelled thereafter, Shivam Dube and Heinrich Klaasen falling tamely to leg-spinner Amit Mishra. Royal Challengers fought on, however, as Marcus Stoinis and Gurkeerat Singh Mann combined for a partnership of 49 runs.
Gurkeerat fell in the 19th over; he was caught behind as he managed an edge trying to play a belligerent stroke. Twenty-eight runs were left to be scored off eight deliveries, a task that proved too difficult eventually.
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When openers Parthiv Patel and Virat Kohli were busy hitting their boundaries at the start of the innings, however, the chase was on. Patel smashed seven boundaries and a six in his 20-ball 39; he played his lofted drives, flicks, sweeps and slog-sweeps. He was caught out in the sixth over when he played a cut shot off Kagiso Rabada, the fast bowler; Axar, at point, went down low to complete the catch.
Kohli, who had been the more sedate partner, fell in the eighth over, caught by the deep square-leg fielder after he played the pull shot off left-arm spinner Axar. He had been nearly dismissed three overs earlier; having edged Ishant Sharma – the fast bowler – behind, he was caught by wicketkeeper Rishabh Pant, but the ball –according to the third umpire – had bounced before it reached Pant.
Iyer, Dhawan dazzle
In contrast to Royal Challengers, Capitals was in full control in its innings, almost carrying off a perfect plan. It had a good start, consolidation in the middle, and some frantic run-making at the death as finishing touches; it was perhaps the team’s most convincing innings here this season as it unleashed a fusillade of big hits. Man-of-the-Match Dhawan (50, 37b, 5X4, 2X6) and Shreyas (52, 37b, 2X4, 3X6) played the anchor knocks.
For a change, the ball seemed to come on to the bat nicely and pace on the ball seemed to aid run-making. Also, Royal Challengers’ spinners were ineffective; leg-spinner Yuzvendra Chahal was especially profligate as he gave away 41 runs in his four overs, albeit with two wickets to show for his efforts.
The fast bowlers – Nitin Saini and Umesh Yadav – were taken for runs, too. In their eight overs, they gave away 83 runs. Many of the fours and sixes hit off their bowling were off full deliveries that provided batsmen leverage to play lofted strokes, especially towards midwicket.
The assault began from the first over itself. Dhawan, in fine form, stepped down the track to Umesh and reached at the wide delivery for a four through cover. In the third over, he took a liking to Chahal; he stepped down once again to sweetly strike a six down the ground before going down on one knee to play a part-pull, part-ramp stroke for a four.
After the dismissal of Prithvi Shaw, his enterprising opening partner who brought out his pulls, cuts and lofted strokes in his short stay at the crease, Dhawan settled down to lay the foundation for a big total alongside Shreyas, the captain.
In their alliance of 68 runs, the two were restrained but punished the loose deliveries. The big hits included two sixes – the first by Dhawan off Saini to fine leg, and the second by Shreyas off Chahal to midwicket.
Soon after reaching his third half-century in three matches, in the 13th over, Dhawan fell to Chahal as he failed to time an attempted slog-sweep. Chahal, in his next over, dismissed Rishabh Pant leg-before-wicket after being hit for two sixes through midwicket by Shreyas.
Shreyas himself got out soon after, having lasted an hour at the crease. He attempted a six off off-spinner Washington Sundar and instead holed out to Kohli at deep midwicket.
It cleared the decks for the Colin Ingram, Rutherford and Axar to swing their bats merrily towards the business end. Their cavalier approach was successful too, frustrating Royal Challengers. They were happy to use the pace of the ball as the fast bowlers returned to finish off.
Rutherford’s cameo was the highlight in this period as he hit three sixes – two through midwicket and one through backward point; the last one was via an outrageous one-handed cut off the last ball of the innings. Thirty six runs were scored in the last two overs as Rutherford and Patel plundered Umesh and Saini.
These were crucial runs that helped Capitals keep its nose ahead.
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