Daredevils back to old Delhi ways, bottom of the table after six games

Shreyas Iyer removed his helmet, wiped the sweat off his brow and strode down to have a chat with Amit Mishra at the non-striker’s end. The equation was simple. Delhi Daredevils, in pursuit of Punjab’s 143/8, needed 17 runs from the final over. Seeing Mujeeb-ur-Rahaman, the young Afghan leg-spinner ready to bowl, Iyer gauged the task at hand. Just three sixes, that’s all he needed. He struck one off the second delivery, then followed it up with a double and a boundary in the subsequent three. However, needing five runs from the final delivery of the match, Iyer, Delhi’s last hope, mistimed his shot to get caught in the deep. R Ashwin’s gamble of bowling Mujeeb in the final over paid off as Punjab eked out a thrilling four-run win at the Feroz Shah Kotla.

At the halfway mark, the match looked like an open-and-shut case. Despite the slow track on offer, and the variety in Punjab’s bowling arsenal, the Daredevils were poised to gun down 144 and script their season’s second win. Everything boiled down to the start they would get. Sadly for the home team, it was far from ideal.

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Prithvi Shaw, one of the five fresh faces inducted in the line-up for this game, flattered with a flurry of boundaries at the start before he was done in for 22 by Man of the Match Ankit Rajpoot in the third over. Captain Gautam Gambhir’s indifferent form continued to plague his team. Barring the 55 he had scored in the opening game, he has looked abysmally out of sorts. His horror run continued as he top-edged Andrew Tye for just four. The twin blows at the start pegged the Daredevils back. Buoyed by some resourceful bowling by Punjab, Delhi’s belligerent middle order found the going tough. Like his captain, Glenn Maxwell too departed after mistiming a pull shot, while local lad Rishabh Pant left a huge gap between bat and pad to hand Mujeeb a wicket off his first delivery of the match. The home side harboured hopes of crossing the finish line when Iyer and Rahul Tewatia muscled a few big hits in their 47-run partnership for the sixth wicket. However, Punjab held their nerve to climb to the top of the points table.

Bowling bares fangs

Till last month, Liam Plunkett had no idea that he would be featuring in this IPL. The 33-year-old Yorkshireman was quietly going through the paces back home in Leeds, preparing for the English summer. However, a back injury to Kagiso Rabada put him on the Delhi Daredevils radar, and they picked him as a replacement for a cool Rs 1.8 crore. The late call-up made him the 12th Englishman in IPL this year. Plunkett’s last-minute entry irked some counties back home, who have called for a cut-off window to prevent such late call-ups to IPL. On the face of it, their grouse looks pretty legitimate. With the English summer in full swing, Plunkett’s departure has severely depleted Yorkshire’s bowling resources.

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After sitting out the opening five games, when Daredevils finally handed Plunkett the opportunity to add a bit of zip and bite to their toothless attack, the seamer did not disappoint. On a sluggish Kotla track, he brought all his experience into play, showcasing why he has been one of England’s go-to bowlers, especially in the shorter formats. Apart from mixing his line and length astutely, Plunkett also brought about those subtle changes in pace. All this reaped him a haul of three wickets on his IPL debut. First up, he dismissed a well-set KL Rahul with an off-cutter in his opening over, and then followed it up with rattling Mayank Agarwal’s off-stump. The Karnataka opener was beaten by the sheer pace of the delivery that was clocked at 146kmph. He returned towards the end to account for Karun Nair. Plunkett finished with figures of 4-0-17-3, and his timely scalps helped Daredevils restrict Punjab to a below par score.

Plunkett was not the lone star with the ball for the home side though. The Englishman was supported by 21-year-old fast bowler Avesh Khan. Like Plunkett, he too was playing his first IPL game of this season, and his impact was instant. Khan worked up some searing pace, bowling comfortably at over 140kmph consistently. He even got disconcerting bounce off the Kotla track. Despite getting a bit of stick from KL Rahul early on, he prised out Punjab opener Aaron Finch and the experienced Yuvraj Singh to finish with figures of 4-0-36-2. The Madhya Pradesh fast bowler had impressed in his lone IPL outing last year in the RCB jersey too. Even though he finished that game with a solitary scalp, it elicited praise from his captain Virat Kohli. Since then, the fast bowler has been on the selectors’ radar, and was picked to tour South Africa as one of Team India’s nets bowlers. Avesh’s burst at the Kotla tonight further illustrated the rapid strides he has made as a fast bowler.

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