FINAL MOMENT DRAMA!! The revamped Delhi franchise - Delhi Capitals’ campaign has been synonymous to the spectacle of the last few minutes of a reality show this year and they brought them in abundance tonight in Vizag, their first ever playoff game after 7 seasons.
After the first four balls of the 18th over, where Rishabh Pant laid his carnage over Basil Thampi scoring 20 runs, it seemed like it would be an easy victory for Delhi. But nothing has come easy for the Delhi side whose biggest strength - their youngsters - has also proved to be an Achilles heel for them. With 12 needed off 12 balls, both Rutherford and Rishabh Pant skied Bhuvneshwar Kumar’s slower deliveries high up in the air when the ball was clearly not their to be hit.
Five were needed off the last ball and Delhi had given their opponents, Sunrisers Hyderabad another chance to stay alive in the tournament. A wide from Khaleel Ahmed eased their nerves which was followed by a single from Amit Mishra on the next ball. Two balls later, they needed 2 off 3 balls when Mishra missed out on putting bat to ball and went in hunt for a bye.
In a game where the pendulum swung both directions in the last 10 overs, the biggest moment of drama was yet to unfold. In his desperation to steal a bye, he intentionally came in between the bowler’s throw and the stumps. Followed by an enthusiastic appeal by the Hyderabad fielders, Mishra was rightly adjudged obstructing the field and had to take the long walk back to the dugout at a crunch moment in the game.
Two needed off two balls, Keemo Paul marked his guard again to face the most crucial ball in history of Delhi’s IPL fortunes over the last 7 years. Facing Khaleel Ahmed, his mind would have revisited the final moments of the U19 World Cup final in 2016 where he struck the same bowler for the winning runs. With Trent Boult at the other end and a harmless short ball coming at him, Keemo Paul gave a full whack beating Vijay Shankar at the deep mid-wicket boundary completing Delhi’s maiden victory in the Top 4 stage.
The whole of Delhi Capitals’ crew came running on the ground to celebrate a famous win but the most joyous and relaxed people would be their young troika of the Prithvi SHaw, Rishabh Pant and the skipper, Shreyas Iyer. Rishabh Pant had done everything with the bat before playing Bhuvi up in the air in his desire to finish the game with a six.
He came out to bat after the dismissal of Iyer and carried his innings with a captivating mix of caution and aggression. Watching Prithvi Shaw, Colin Munro and Axar Patel lose their wickets, his presence in the middle became more significant. He waited for his chances, played the ball around to keep the scoreboard ticking and exploded with clean and unperturbed striking of the ball against the most inexperienced bowler in the SRH camp - Basil Thampi taking 22 off the over.
Before him, it was another youngster, the youngest member of the batting line-up - Prithvi Shaw who struck the ball around the park in the first 6 overs, including a three boundaries against Khaleel Ahmed and then 17 runs off their most experienced bowler - Bhuvi. Such was the brilliance of his strokeplay that Shikhar Dhawan, one of IPL’s most successful batsmen this year played the second fiddle to him.
In an innings held together by the youngsters, it was fitting that another youngster in Keemo
Paul sealed the chase for Delhi. His unbeaten 5 may look like a diminutive contribution in comparison with Pant’s 49 and Shaw’s 56 but his bowling figures reading 3/32 played a pivotal role in restricting Sunrisers to 162 who got off to a brisk start with Saha and Guptill putting 31 runs on the board in three overs.
In the middle overs, the veteran Amit Mishra put a halt to SRH’s progress taking 1/16 off his 4 overs which included the prized wicket of Martin Guptill. The Orange Army which seemed to have lost their way during the middle overs after a scratchy 30 from Manish Pandey found some flourish to their innings towards the end from Mohammad Nabi and Vijay Shankar.
Unlike the first qualifier that was a snoozefest, this game proved to be a cliffhanger that had drama at both ends of it. Wriddhiman Saha was adjudged lbw on the first ball of the night. A delayed decision to take DRS saved him and it was quite confusing to see him opt to go upstairs after an unnecessary discussion with his opening partner when he had clearly edged the ball. Nelson struck thrice in the game, once for SRH, twice for DC and if you include the days proceedings, it had also struck five times in the Women’s IPL arena when the Mithali-Raj led Velocity lost 5 wickets at the score of 111.
Ultimately, it proved to be a memorable game worth of a playoff encounter which saw the three teams that ended with 18 points in the table still in hunt for the title.