IPL 2020: Rashid Khan stars as Delhi Capitals fail in modest chase against Sunrisers Hyderabad
Plenty has been made of the fact that Rishabh Pant hadn’t hit a six in the first two games of this IPL. Perhaps he was proving, more to himself than anyone else, that he too could play according to the situation – as scores of 31 and 37* in twin wins prior to tonight suggest. Or perhaps he was just not that confident, we’ll never know. But until Tuesday, a six Pant hadn’t hit.
That changed when exactly a 100 runs were needed from 8 overs for the table-toppers Delhi to stay on top, and in turn keeping bottom-placed Sunrisers Hyderabad at the bottom. Batting on 8 off 16 balls at this point, Pant cleared his right leg and slapped the length ball bowled by orthodox Abhishek Sharma. But the ball carried only as far as the bowler, who put down a difficult chance. Sharma sighed, Pant smiled and the next two deliveries were fetched from the stands beyond cow-corner and long-off respectively.
Five overs later, with the required rate mounting, Pant looked to strike his third six against yet another spinner bowling his final over of the day. But Afghanistan’s Rashid Khan, the best short-format bowler in the world, is a little harder to tonk about than Sharma. On a slow-and-low Abu Dhabi wicket, the leggie had already put the brakes on Delhi’s scoring with the wickets of opener Shikhar Dhawan and captain Shreyas Iyer.
So, when Pant walked across the stumps to slog Khan over square-leg, Khan already had his fists up in delight. Such was this wicket, one that needed the service of a true anchor batsman and not just someone pretending to be one. And such was this day, one that Delhi lost by 15 runs despite chasing a (relatively) paltry 163, especially in a tournament where scores of 200 have easily been toppled.
Five overs is a long time in T20 cricket. Over the previous two IPL evenings, Rajasthan Royals and Mumbai Indians had scored 84 and 89 runs from five overs to set this tournament ablaze. Those was the last five overs of the match in nearby Sharjah and Dubai, respectively; today, on the wider greens of Abu Dhabi, SRH managed just 24 runs from the first five overs of their game against DC, after having been stuck in to bat.
The situation wasn’t much better for Delhi when it was their turn with the bat: 27 for the loss of the in-form Prithvi Shaw after a quarter of an innings. This – caused partly by the ground’s size but mostly due to its two-paced wicket – ensured that the contest was a gnarly, thinking-fan’s affair. The scoreboard will tell you that, after their respective five-over spells, SRH recovered better than Delhi thanks to Jonny Bairstow and Kane Williamson’s combined effort. But don’t be fooled; the hero of the day was the Zayed Stadium in Abu Dhabi, which ensured that the bowlers too played this game after the madness of Sharjah and Dubai had relegated them to the margins.
SRH hadn’t lost their openers in David Warner and Bairstow – this team’s strength by a fair distance -- but only the former had managed a boundary during the first five overs of the day. And Warner knew then that he had to step on the gas. In the following over, the final over of the powerplay, the Australian hit Anrich Nortje inside-out for the first six of the game, and followed it up with an inside-edged boundary past the ‘keeper.
But the big hits were few and far between, a fact that was hardly made up for by their hard running between the stumps. The desperation was evident once Warner was out reverse-sweeping a wide ball by Mishra followed by Manish Pandey holing out in the deep before he was even set. This would’ve exposed SRH’s rot in the middle-order on any other day. But in walked Williamson.
Three out of four SRH’s foreigners are set in stone – Warner, Bairstow and Rashid Khan. Mitchell Marsh was the fourth foreigner in the loss to Bangalore and Mohammad Nabi in the loss to Kolkata. Today was Williamson’s turn, and he probably locked down the spot with a gem of a knock – a quickfire 41.
Williamson’s exotic strokeplay and Bairstow’s run-a-ball fifty, his second in three innings, gave SRH a total of 162. In Abu Dhabi, it was enough.