It can still all go horribly wrong from here on, but the change of name seems to have done a lot of good to the Delhi franchise. Long been a butt of jokes, bringing up the rear almost every season, they seem to have turned a corner. Little over halfway in the league phase, they find themselves second in the table behind runaway leaders Chennai Super Kings.
Their match against Sunrisers Hyderabad was the perfect example of what can happen when a team front-loads its line-up with nothing much to follow. It never pays to put all eggs in one (or two) basket, especially when the opposition has a potent bowling attack.
Sunrisers were chasing a target that seemed below par at the halfway stage, more so when David Warner and Jonny Bairstow gave the hosts the customary strong start. But the two could put on ‘only’ 72 runs, and after the openers were separated, the sun dramatically set on Hyderabad’s chase, the team bundled out for 116 inside 19 overs.
The two teams seem to be going in opposite directions at the moment. It was Delhi’s third straight victory, all away from home, while Sunrisers have lost as many on the bounce.
As has been the case for much of this campaign, Delhi’s overseas contingent rose to the occasion taking all 10 wickets. Kagiso Rabada, Chris Morris and Keemo Paul all went at well under a run a ball.
Big players step up when the match is on the line. With only Warner standing between the team from the Capital and a victory, Rabada took out the Aussie left-hander and Vijay Shankar in one over to snuff out their chances.
The top heavy nature of the Sunrisers batting is evident from the fact that apart from their openers, no other batsmen (including returning skipper Kane Williamson) could get into double figures or could score at more than a run a ball.
Delhi fall short
Earlier, Delhi also faltered with a lack of firepower at the end. Their first four or five batsmen are quality, but the level drops alarmingly after that. Morris is one of the designated all-rounders, but has done next to nothing with the bat. And one can’t expect much from the likes of Axar Patel and Keemo Paul.
It also brings into focus the lack of maturity shown by Rishabh Pant. With the other big guns back in the pavilion with a substantial number of overs left, the one was on him to take Delhi Capitals to a competitive score. And he tried to do so, singlehandedly (literally).
Another attempted big hit, one hand coming off the bat, and the ball nestling in long off’s grasp a long way inside the boundary.
Pant needs to learn, sooner rather than later, the merits of staying till the end and not leaving the job to those less accomplished than him. There’s always more time than one thinks.
Khaleel Ahmed may not make it into the World Cup squad, and has been out of favour with the team management of late. He was brought into the Sunrisers team, and his left-arm angle, bounce and aggression proved it to be an inspired selection.
He got Prithvi Shaw, who has tapered off a bit of late, with one that angled across him and bounced to take the edge. Shikhar Dhawan was bounced out with one targeting his helmet, before Pant had his brain fade.
It helped Hyderabad that Rashid Khan was an enigma for most batsmen, especially Delhi Capitals skipper Shreyas Iyer. He couldn’t make head or tail of the Afghan leg-spinner, all the runs coming in fortuitous fashion.
For a change, Bhuvneshwar Kumar, who has been taken to the cleaners at the death in earlier matches. But what Delhi got proved more than enough on the night.
Brief scores: Delhi Capitals 155/7 in 20 overs (S Iyer 45 off 40b, 5×4, C Munro 40 off 24, 4×4, 3×6; K Ahmed 3/30, B Kumar 2/33) beat Sunrisers Hyderabad 116 all out in 18.5 overs (D Warner 51 off 47, 4×3, 1×6, J Bairstow 41 off 31, 5×4, 1×6; K Rabada 4/22, C Morris 3/22) by 39 runs.