May 3, 2018
Another rain-curtailed duel
Rain seems to be chasing Rajasthan Royals and Delhi Daredevils. The last time these two teams faced off at the Sawai Mansingh Stadium in Jaipur three weeks ago, it was a rain-truncated affair, in which the Daredevils got a tricky target that they could not overhaul. On Wedneday evening, barely 10 minutes after Ajinkya Rahane, the Royals captain, won the toss and asked the Daredevils to take first strike, the Feroz Shah Kotla was greeted by a downpour that was accompanied by thunderstorms and wind.
The Daredevils could ill afford to see a washout at this stage of the competition. With two wins from eight games, they were placed at the bottom of the points table, and needed to win at least five of their remaining six league games to stay in the hunt for the play-offs.
A washout at their home turf would virtually end Daredevils’ IPL campaign for good. However, the good news for the Daredevils and their supporters was that showers did not last long, clearing away after barely 45 minutes. Following a hurried pitch inspection by the umpires, the match was reduced to 18 overs per side.
That all-too-familiar daredevilry
Gautam Gambhir’s decision to step down both as the Dardevils captain and the consequent elevation of young Shreyas Iyer has brought about an incredible turnaround in their fortunes. In the first six games, Daredevils’s batting lacked the stomach for a fight. They looked far too tepid and defensive in their outlook. Consequently, the team failed to either chase down or register a score of substance.
However, since Iyer took over the mantle and Gambhir was eased out of the XI, their batting has been underlined by an uncluttered no-holds-barred approach. It emanated from their new captain, who scored an unbeaten match-defining 40-ball 93 in their previous home game against the Kolkata Knight Riders.
Even in their narrow 13-run loss to the rampant Chennai Super Kings in Pune, their batsmen showed intent in chasing down an unassailable target of 212.
Much of that aggression and daredevilry was on display in their third home game against the Royals at the Kotla. Despite the early loss of opener Colin Munro, the two Mumbaikars in Delhi’s line-up, Prithvi Shaw and captain Iyer, injected the much-needed impetus in the Powerplay overs. The two backed their instincts and decided to go airbone, clearing the fielders and the boundary ropes without much fuss.
Shaw, whose confidence has grown after every game, got stuck into the Royals’ most expensive buy — Jaydev Unadkat — carting him for a brace of boundaries and a six in his opening over. Shaw got a life when Dhawal Kulkarni grassed him for 18. At the end of the Powerplay, the Daredevils had raced to 48/1, with India’s U-19 World Cup-winning captain taking his personal tally to 37.
There was hardly any respite for the Royals after the mandatory Powerplay overs. Even Shaw’s untimely exit (he scored a thrilling 25-ball 47), did little to hinder the home side. Iyer, joined by wicket-keeper Rishabh Pant, continued the blitz. In the subsequent seven overs after Shaw’s dismissal, Iyer and Pant added 92 runs.
It was absolute mayhem. Pant bludgeoned five sixes, and looked to smoke everything that came in his arc. He was particularly harsh on Shreyas Gopal. In fact, one of the sixes he hit off the leg-spinner landed on the old and empty press box. Iyer, manwhile, continued his good form, stroking his fourth fifty in five games.
Like Shaw, Pant was poised for a big haul, but was done in by Unadkat for a 29-ball 69. Vijay Shankar continued the fireworks for Daredevils. A flurry of big hits from the Tamil Nadu all-rounder propelled the home side to a commanding 196/6 after 17 overs.