RR vs DC: Rishabh Pant upstages Ajinkya Rahane as Delhi beat Rajasthan to go top of the table
Two cricketers not considered good enough to make the World Cup cut chose an Indian Premier League match to prove they are much more than mere numbers and assumptions. Ajinkya Rahane, dropped as Rajasthan Royals captain last match, scored an unbeaten century to get the monkey off his back. In the next half though, Rishabh Pant showed how big a gamechanger he is shaping up to be by blasting 78 off 36 balls and hand Delhi Capitals a six-wicket win.
On Monday, Rajasthan Royals started on an ominous note — a mix-up in calling leading to the run out of Sanju Samson in the second over with just five runs on the board. It however brought the focus firmly back on struggling Rahane. After being dropped at short fine-leg by Ishant, Rahane guided Royals to 191 after a 130-run second-wicket partnership with Smith.
A brisk start from Shikhar Dhawan, who scored a quickfire half century gave Delhi the start they were looking for. Dhawan made his intensions clear right at the start, hammering Dhawal Kulkarni for a six off the third ball of the second over. Eight fours and a six came off Dhawan’s bat before he was out for a 27-ball 54, finally foxed by a Shreyas Gopal googly. Delhi lost their skipper Shreyas Iyer cheaply (4) but Pant’s 78 (6x4, 4x6) along with Prithvi Shaw’s sedate 42 ensured that his side can now start dreaming of playoffs. It came down to six of the last over and Pant, who had added 84 runs with Shaw for the third wicket, took Delhi home with a six of Jaydev Unadkat’s second ball.
Earlier, Rahane was a different batsman after the run-out that accounted for Samson. The shots started flowing as he started taking more risks, piercing the gaps and taking the aerial route thrice to raise his fifty in 32 balls. Delhi Capitals, who had left out Sandeep Lamichhane for this match, were tottering in the face of Rahane’s counter-attack.
Rahane’s best this season was 70 against Sunrisers Hyderabad but has been generally struggling to cope with the pressure. His first target was Axar Patel whom he carved for a six and four in the fourth over immediately after being dropped. He then followed that up by hammering a six and a boundary off Kagiso Rabada in the next over.
Delhi’s bowlers were put under tremendous pressure as Smith picked up from where he had left off against Mumbai Indians. Smith raced to his 50 (32b, 8x4) but was dismissed to a well-judged catch by Chris Morris at long off. Rahane continued the onslaught from his end, bringing up his century with a double off Ishant Sharma in the 17th over. Delhi then managed to pull things back, striking at regular intervals. Ashton Turner was out for this third consecutive golden duck, while Stuart Binny scored a 13-ball 19 before twin strikes by Rabada in the last over prevented Royals from getting to 200.