It was a night when KXIP followed an unfamiliar script and won the game comfortably, with an over to spare. Tonight, it was the other nine players apart from KL Rahul and Mayank Agarwal who stood up in a dominant Punjab win.
First, the bowlers restricted DC to a sub-par score. While Shikhar Dhawan was going ablaze from one end, the spinners kept the noose tight on Delhi's batsmen. No other DC batsman could either make a decent contribution or score at a brisk pace. After a champion Super Over two nights earlier, Mohammed Shami gave 13 runs in two overs at the death.
There were early hiccups in the pursuit of a modest 165. Chris Gayle chipped-in with a 29-run cameo at a strike-rate of 223.07 between the dismissals of Rahul and Mayank. Then, there was the Nicholas Pooran show that all but ended DC's hopes. As a pleasant surprise, Maxwell found himself among the runs though he is still to hit a six after 87 balls this season.
Shikhar Dhawan’s lone hand
There have been many superlative innings in 13 IPL seasons so far. But, it was the first time that a player scored centuries in consecutive innings. Dhawan etched his name in IPL history by achieving a feat that players more aggressive and adept for T20 could not.
There were shots from his bat all-round the wicket but his primary weapon on the night was the slog-sweep. Whenever he attempted the shot, there were two outcomes. If it was a grounded shot, it tested the two fielders deep on the leg side boundary but pierced them ultimately. Or, those two were mere spectators as the ball sailed over them. He scored 28 in seven balls on that shot.
In the last three games, Prithvi Shaw failed to survive the first over, tonight, KXIP opted for a bizarre move to start the innings with a spinner. Shaw opened his account after two games on the first ball.
It was probably a move to counter the flying high Dhawan who has traditionally struggled against off-spin. However, oozing with confidence, Dhawan foiled their plans with a nonchalant slog sweep on the fifth ball to deposit Glenn Maxwell over the boundary.
Batting like a dream, he attacked every bowler and hit boundaries for fun. Apart from his expert gap finding, there were also cultured pulls over the keeper to score 35 off 20 balls in the Powerplay, making this his best start of the season.
With spinners operating in tandem and field spread out, the runs dried to an extent for the Capitals. In the eight overs bowled by the spinners in the middle-phase, DC scored 54 runs and lost two wickets.
After the dismissal of Shreyas Iyer, who tucked a Murugan Ashwin leg-spinner on his pads to KL Rahul behind the stumps, Dhawan and Rishabh Pant stabilized the innings with a 33-run stand off 31 balls. Playing after a break off three games, Pant was not at his fluent best scoring 14 off 20.
However, Dhawan continued the merry-making playing conventional sweeps, slog sweeps and deft touches to collect boundaries on occasions. Contrary to his record in all IPL where he is more fluent against pace on the ball, Dhawan dominated spin tonight. Attacking every tweaker KXIP threw at him, he scored at a strike-rate of 190.63 against spin as compared to 155.17 against the pacers. Unleashing a slog-sweep for the umpteenth time to hit Bishnoi for a six over the square-leg fence and complete 5,000 IPL runs.
Shami brilliant at the death
After spinners had done their work early on, KXIP did not allow Delhi to finish big as they could manage 47 in the last five. Reminiscent of the Super Over against MI, Shami executed his yorkers well and DC could fetch only one boundary off his two overs at the death. Apart from accounting for Marcus Stoinis, he destroyed Shimron Hetmyer's furniture on the final ball.
While most of the Delhi batsmen batted at a strike-rate of under a 100, Dhawan looked a class apart and batting at a strike-rate of 173.77. The others scored 54 off 59 balls while Dhawan ended with a 61-ball 106*.
A horror start for KXIP
Despite a 26-run over in the Powerplay, the KXIP innings was in shambles after the Powerplay.
In the third over, Axar Patel outfoxed KL Rahul by luring him into an attacking stroke that did not go past mid-on. To a ball earlier, bowled quicker and flatter, Rahul collected a boundary via a cut. A slower and loopier next ball cost him his wicket.
With Chris Gayle on the strike, there was a sense of anticipation whether Ravi Ashwin or Kagiso Rabada will bowl the fifth over. The Delhi Capitals went for the youngster Tushar Deshpande. Dominating the youngster, Gayle hit two sixes and three fours in what turned out to be a 26-run over.
It was Ashwin's time to wrap up the Powerplay and the decision to delay him proved incorrect. It took him two balls to clean-up Gayle, dismissing him for the fifth time in the IPL. This is despite the two coming against each other after 2015.
The bad became worse as Nicholas Pooran misjudged a run two balls later. Setting off from the non-striker's end amid the miscommunication, Mayank Agarwal fell short of the crease.
The Nicholas Pooran show
With two wickets in the sixth over, Delhi went for the kill asking Kagiso Rabada to bowl the seventh. An additional matter was a struggling Glenn Maxwell at the crease who has been a walking wicket against quality bowling this season.
Both Maxwell and Nicholas Pooran played out his over with respect. Pooran then started to forget what happened earlier as he opened his arms to hit a four off a cut against Ravi Ashwin in the next over. However, there was a chance for Delhi to deliver what could have been a telling blow. After Mayank’s run-out, there was a chance to dismiss Pooran as well who set-off after hitting once again. He was short of his crease after Maxwell sent him back but Pant could not collect a wayward throw from Dhawan at short cover.
The next over, eighth of the innings, from Tushar Deshpande resulted in a near knock-out punch from Pooran. In the three overs to follow, KXIP hit 40 runs as Pooran smashed three fours and as many sixes. None of Deshpande, Stoinis or Patel looked a threat to the flair and nonchalance of Pooran who collected boundaries at will.
After reaching a 27-ball half-century, it took the competence of Rabada to end the carnage. When Pooran got out, KXIP needed about five runs an over.
Playing a second fiddle until then, Maxwell too added two boundaries to his name after Pooran's dismissal. With 84 runs added in the nine-overs, KXIP gave them a good chance to finally get an easy finish to their name.
With 24 needed in 30 balls, it was all but over as the KXIP entered the death overs phase. But, the way they have managed to lose the grip from a comfortable position, it still felt like DC was in the game.
It did go a little tricky when Maxwell toe ended a skier to Pant in the 16th over. It could have gone trickier when Marcus Stoinis floored a chance when KXIP needed 7 off 10. In the end, a six by James Neesham on the last ball of the 19th over ended the match uncharacteristically ahead of what KXIP is used to.
KXIP have now beaten Royal Challengers Bangalore, Mumbai Indians and Delhi Capitals in consecutive matches. Propelled to number five on the points table, KXIP finally look like a threatening unit.