Records tumbled at the Feroz Shah Kotla as Rishabh Pant’s blitzkrieg, well aided by Sanju Samson’s blazing fifty, helped Delhi Daredevils register their highest successful run-chase with the seven-wicket win over Gujarat Lions. Pant and Samson added a record 143 runs for the second wicket to help the home side keep their IPL 2017 campaign alive and, at the same time, knock Lions out of the playoffs race. Pant missed out on what would have been his maiden IPL hundred by three runs but ensured Daredevils stayed in the hunt throughout, despite a demanding asking rate.
Drama started as early as in the second over of Gujarat’s innings. Kagiso Rabada struck with his very first ball of the game to remove the dangerous Brendon McCullum for just one run. Off the next ball, Lions were two-down as a communication breakdown between Dwayne Smith and his skipper Suresh Raina led to the former’s run-out, courtesy a razor sharp throw from Shahbaz Nadeem at the non-striker’s end. What followed next was a prolonged spell of sloppy fielding that cost Delhi 133 runs in a partnership that, at the halfway stage, seemed to have taken the game away from the hosts. Shreyas Iyer, Sanju Samson, debutant Marlon Samuels were all guilty of missing out on easy opportunities in the field, leading to plenty of freebies. Fielding errors led to bonus boundaries, missed run-out chances and dropped catches saw Lions sneak in their best-ever partnership for any wicket. Raina almost holed out even before he could get off the mark, and then again off the final ball of the same over by Rabada, only to see Iyer messing up the simplest of all catches.
And when the Lions’ skipper was going at a strike rate of nearly 200, Samuels grassed one to give him yet another life on 40, off the bowling of Mohammad Shami. He went on to make 77 off 43 before his luck eventually ran out.
The Raina-DK show
Dropped twice in an over, Raina made Delhi pay for the misses chances with a knock that completely seized the momentum for his side. The Lions captain spared no bowler, and went particularly after the pacers, as he raced his way to his 31st IPL fifty, that came off just 32 balls. Together with Dinesh Karthik, he laid the platform for Lions’ all-time highest IPL total.
Karun Nair brought on his sixth different bowler – debutante Marlon Samuels – in search for that desperate breakthrough but the southpaw continued his assault, hammering 16 off the over to help Lions breach the 100-run mark in the 11th over. Karthik, who played second fiddle to his skipper for the better part of the third-wicket stand, then took on Nadeem to post Lions’ first century stand of the season. But there were a few more big hits in the store before the duo could be separated. By the time Delhi got the much-needed respite, they had seen them put on Lions’ highest partnership – worth 133 – for any wicket, during their brief existence in the tournament. The wicketkeeper-batsman, who silently piled on runs, contributed 65 off 34 to the Lions’ 208.
Ironically, Daredevils seemed a completely different fielding unit in the second half of that innings, starting with the Raina run-out to break the dangerous century stand. The Lions captain was caught short by a direct hit from Rabada. Karthik’s 34-ball knock came to an end when Corey Anderson showed incredible judgement to pull off a screamer at mid-off. And when Aaron Finch seemed to be taking control with his own little cameo, Rishabh Pant pulled off a stunner to dent Lions further. 37 runs in final four overs is by no means a ‘good show’ but when the batsmen have plundered 177 in the previous 16, it can safely be termed as a decent comeback. That said, the visitors still eased their way to their first-ever 200-plus score.
Whatever Raina-Karthik can do, Pant-Samson can do better!
If Delhi wanted to stay in the hunt, they needed a partnership as fearless as Raina-Karthik’s, if not something better. But Pant and Samson’s clean hitting ensured that the efforts of the Lions’ pair were quickly forgotten. Pant, who had hit a few brisk knocks previously, came into his own during the 209-run chase while Samson, who already has a century against his name in this season, was reduced to a mere spectator at the other end for a brief while. Pant was in as early as in the third over, after the skipper Nair disappointed yet again, and made his intentions clear from the word go. Pant mauled every bowler Raina could offer. His first four balls contained three sixes on the trot and that set the tone for the chase. Samson too fed off his confidence and started freeing his arms more often.
The fifty stand came off 27 balls and the next runs of the partnership were added in mere 19 balls more. The duo spared no bowler, hitting as many as 16 sixes between them. Samson was the first to fall, contributing 61 off 31 to the chase, while also registering his third fifty of IPL 2017. Ravindra Jadeja put the brakes on the 143-run stand but the ship had already sailed.
Within striking distance of that triple-figure mark, Pant grew jittery and was very unfortunate to fall three short of becoming the youngest ever to hit an IPL ton. He, however, won accolades from not only his dug-out and the crowd, but also the opposition’s skipper who embraced the 19-year-old – crestfallen after losing out on the rare milestone. Anderson and Iyer finished off the formalities with two and a half overs to spare.
Where do the go from here?
Daredevils now have a third home game on the trot, a day later, where they host table-toppers Mumbai Indians with an aim to build on this winning momentum. Lions, on the other hand, now out of contention for a playoffs berth with just six points at the end of 11 games. They now travel north to take on Kings XI Punjab in Mohali on May 7, before going to Kanpur where they host Daredevils for the return fixture on the 10th.