Rishabh Pant showed plenty of daredevilry in the form of some authoritative stroke-play and solid hitting as his team Delhi Daredevils scored a thumping eight-wicket win over Gujarat Lions at the Saurashtra Cricket Association stadium at Khanderi village here on Tuesday.
Promoted to open the innings with Quinton de Kock at the expense of Shreyas Iyer, the left-hander played delightful shots and raced to his first half century of the IPL with two boundaries and a six off Suresh Raina in the ninth over of the Daredevils’ innings.
The South African left hander was no less aggressive as the duo put on 115 for the first wicket in the chase of 150 for victory. Pant gifted his wicket attempting a wild shot off Ravindra Jadeja, but thereafter the Daredevils proceeded to notch its fifth win, collect two more points and take the second position behind Lions which has 12 from nine matches. It was the Lions’ third loss.
Earlier when the match was all set to start at 8 p.m., the team sheets of the two teams had a curious look about them; two West Indians – Dwayne Bravo and Carlos Brathwaite — did not figure for their respective teams, Gujarat Lions and Delhi Daredevils.
The omissions were surprising since the Barbadian Brathwaite had been Daredevils’ man of the match award winner against Kolkata Knight Riders with his 34 and three for 47 while the Trinidadian Bravo has been the Lions top wicket-taker with 10 scalps in eight matches apart from sending down those smart, miserly, end-of-the-innings overs.
No reasons were offered and it can only be construed that Bravo went out because Lions opener Aaron Finch had been declared fit while the Daredevils needed the services of Jean-Paul Duminy much more than Brathwaite on a slow wicket.
The selection of left-arm spinner Shahbaz Nadeem as against continuing with Shreyas Iyer was clearly meant to arm the captain with a specialist spinner to work on a pitch that had offered some purchase to the Kings XI Punjab left-arm spinner Axar Patel, who scalped four victims.
The visitors captain Zaheer Khan invited the home team to bat and his decision to field first yielded quick returns. Nadeem first dismissed Smith and then Finch, who came in at the fall of opener Brendon McCullum after he was bowled by Zaheer. Smith lifted Nadeem to the long-on fielder Chris Morris while Finch swept and top-edged to short fine-leg on the 30-yard circle.
At the stroke of the first hour the Lions were struggling at 75 for four with Raina leaving his ground for Quinton de Kock to whip off the bails and offer leg-spinner Amit Mishra his ninth wicket in the ongoing league. From a meagre 35 for three at the end of the PowerPlay, the home team recovered through an uplifting partnership in which Dinesh Karthik was the key player.
His bold stroke-play saw him achieve a second half century for the Lions and his 52-run stand for the fifth wicket with Ravindra Jadeja helped the home team set a target of 150. For the first time in eight outings the local hero showed glimpses of his ability to score quick runs with four 4s and a six.