A majestic ton from Shikhar Dhawan and a brief blitzkrieg from Axar Patel helped the Delhi Capitals (DC) triumph over the Chennai Super Kings (CSK) in the second last over thriller in the IPL today.
Batting first, CSK lost pinch hitter Sam Curran in the first over itself, and CSK had both their regular openers Shane Watson and Faf du Plessis in the middle. Kagiso Rabada started off with a rare maiden in T20 Cricket, for which Shane Watson compensated in the following over with a couple of boundaries off Tushar Deshpande.
Anrich Nortje was expensive in his first over today, as du Plessis used his pace to ramp his countryman over the fine leg fence off his first ball tonight, following which he found the fence off two poor deliveries, one on the pads and the other pitched up outside off-stump. Rabada went for a couple of boundaries against Watson as well in his second over, as CSK ended the powerplay with a flourish.
Axar Patel and Ravichandran Ashwin then kept things tight for three back-to-back overs after that, but the two CSK batsmen then broke the shackles and smashed 15 off the 10th over from Ashwin, which consisted of three boundaries. Tushar Deshpande was welcomed back into the attack with a clean hit from du Plessis that carried over the long-off boundary.
Anrich Nortje was the one who finally broke through for DC by knocking Watson over with a fuller length delivery. Watson tried to back away and heave him over extra cover, but failed to make any contact and saw his stumps being splattered. DC might have had both set batsmen in the space of an over when du Plessis offered a chance having checked his lofted shot, but Dhawan could not hold on. He made up for it two overs later by producing a much better effort to latch on to a much tougher chance offered by the same man.
Ambati Rayudu, at the other end, had settled in and began going after the bowling. Having nurdled 6 balls for singles, he launched into a slog-sweep off Ashwin that carried over the mid-wicket fence. He then connected well enough twice off Stoinis and Nortje, sending the ball over long-on and deep extra cover respectively. Even though he lost his skipper shortly afterwards, he joined forces with Ravindra Jadeja to guide CSK to a total of 180. The duo produced a really good show of big-hitting against the likes of Rabada and Nortje, taking 57 off the last four overs.
For the second time in two games, DC lost their prolific opener, Prithvi Shaw in the second over itself, caught by Deepak Chahar off his own bowling. Ajinkya Rahane lasted for 10 deliveries before being brilliantly held by Sam Curran at backward point off Chahar.
Shikhar Dhawan, though, got off to an excellent start tonight, finding the fence on three occasions early on. He was joined by Shreyas Iyer, who provided good support to his opener, as the duo looked to consolidate the chase. Dhawan was given a couple of lives, once by Deepak Chahar in the 7th over after the CSK pacer misjudged a high ball at deep mid-wicket, and once right after he reached fifty, when Dhoni was unable to hold on after doing well to dive across and get his left mitt to it.
CSK finally struck in the 12th over, as Dwayne Bravo deceived Iyer with his trademark slower delivery and got the DC skipper to find du Plessis at long-on. Marcus Stoinis walked in and joined Dhawan on the attack, dispatching Karn Sharma for a six straight over his head followed by a lofted shot, inside out to the extra cover fence. Dhawan, at the other end, kept on batting like a possessed man, finding the fence at will.
Stoinis’ productive cameo came to an end with Rayudu holding on to a skier offered by the Australian, two balls after he had dropped a sitter offered by Dhawan. Dhawan, having hit a rich vein of form over the course of the innings, hit a couple of boundaries off Curran that summed up his batting performance today; he first presented the full face of the bat and lofted the third ball of the 17th right between the fielders at long-on and mid-wicket, and then went one better with a mere extension of a front foot defence to a pitched-up delivery that saw the ball sail over the long-on boundary.
A few nervy moments then followed for the Capitals. Alex Carey, who struggled during his 7-ball stay in the middle, departed in the penultimate over off Curran. Curran went for only 4 off that over, which also saw Dhawan reach his maiden IPL hundred, and DC were left with 17 runs to chase in the final over.
Bravo’s absence from the field meant that Dhoni had to make a choice between Karn Sharma and Ravindra Jadeja for the final over, and he went with the latter. CSK would have felt that they were in the game when Dhawan got away from the strike off the very first delivery of the over, leaving Axar Patel in the hot seat, Axar, though, did alright. Keeping a calm, cool, still, straight head, he got his front foot to the pitch of the ball and hit Jadeja over cow-corner, long-off and long-on, with a brace in between to seal the game with a delivery left.
DC v CSK – Where CSK lost the game
MS Dhoni mentioned at the post-match presentation that Dwayne Bravo had to walk off the field due to not being fit and couldn’t return to bowl the final over. On any given day, Bravo would have defended 17 in the last over with his eyes shut, especially with a new batsman taking strike one ball in. The fact that Sam Curran had bowled a cracker of a penultimate over would have given the veteran all-rounder more momentum as well. But with him being out of contention, Dhoni had to make a choice between Karn Sharma and Ravindra Jadeja to bowl the final over as mentioned above.
Given that Karn can turn the ball both ways and when necessary, bowl at a trajectory that makes it difficult for a left-hander to hit him, especially with a longer mid-wicket boundary, Dhoni could have entrusted him for the job, but he went for Jadeja instead. The fact that Jadeja bowls a length that is familiar in nature for Axar Patel made the job slightly easier for the Anand-born all-rounder.
Dhoni also mentioned the issue of dropping Shikhar Dhawan thrice in the course of his innings. The chances were fairly straightforward, especially the third one, the one which went straight to Rayudu at cover, but he went for the catch with hands hard as nails, causing the ball to promptly bounce off his palms. The match would have been well and truly over and gone in favour of CSK if the chances were held onto, but as Dhoni said, credit cannot be taken away from Dhawan for his phenomenal batting performance.