As the teams lined up for today’s match at the Ferozshah Kotla Ground at Delhi, the Delhi Daredevils were clear favorites keeping into account the form of both the teams. Rising Pune Supergiants had won just 2 of the 8 matches they had played so far and Delhi on the other hand had lost just 2 matches from the 7 they had played till today. As if it was not enough, Pune had lost 4 of their best overseas cricketers to injuries causing even more severe headache for the team think tank. It was a crucial match for the Supergiants as one more loss could have shut down all of their chances to qualify for the playoffs.
Delhi Daredevils entered this match with as many as 4 changes from the winning team that played against the Gujarat Lions in their last match. The changes were massive and at the end, match defining.
Captain Zaheer Khan, Quinton DeKock, Chris Morris and Shahbaz Nadeem, all the architects of Delhi’s wins this season were sitting out. This was meant to prepare and test the bench for the adverse times, if it comes.
Still it was a good team on the ground with players like Imran Tahir and Carlos Braithwaite getting a game again. For Pune to win, it was very important for them to put together some great performances and decisions. First correct move came when MS Dhoni won the toss elected to field on a small ground and a good batting wicket.
Delhi did not have the best of starts as the star of the last match, Rishabh Pant fell cheaply, bowled by Ashok Dinda.
Fellow opener Sanju Samson and the new man Karun Nair got the team back on track with some classical shots as they added 35 runs for the 2nd wicket in quick time. Samson got out on the last ball of the powerplay to leave his team at 48 for 2. Karun Nair along with JP Duminy dealt mostly in singles to take the team forward, but it was the arrival of Sam Billings that brought some urgency to the Delhi innings. Duminy played the anchor as Billings and Braithwaite played useful cameos around him to up the rate for the Daredevils. In the last couple of overs, it was Pawan Negi who hit a couple of boundaries to propel Delhi to 162 for 7.
Rajat Bhatia bowled well for the visitors with a spell of 2 for 22 in his 4 overs to restrict Delhi from getting a real big score.
Pune openers Usman Khwaja and Ajinka Rahane started well with a 59 run partnership but Delhi never let them fly away with the game. The spinners Mishra, Jayant and Tahir kept the batsmen quite for most part of the innings. Mishra had Khwaja stumped while Tahir got Saurabh Tiwary caught by Sam Billings on the boundary to keep Delhi in with a chance.
After the fall of 2nd wicket, Dhoni arrived at the crease to loud cheers from the crowd and did not disappoint either. He scored a 20 ball 27 before falling to Imran Tahir as Sam Billings produced another spectacular catch inches from the boundary ropes.
But the damage had been done till then as the previous over, 18th of the innings from Mohammed Shami went for 20 runs. The pressure built by Mishra and Tahir had been undone. At one stage the Supergiants needed 37 off the last 3 overs, thanks largely to a couple of really tight overs from the Amit Mishra and Imran Tahir, but Shami`s over ruined it all. Tahir tried to pull it back in the 19th over, with 17 more required, by getting Dhoni off the first ball but new man Thisara Perera connected his slogs for 2 massive sixes in the over to reduce the target to 3 off the last over. Shami bowling the last over had Perera caught of the 1st ball but overstepped, leveling the scores. Unbeaten opener Rahane finished off the match with a boundary off the next delivery to finish at 63 not out from 48 balls. His 5th half century this season.
Delhi were not the same team that was cruising till the last match but the wins have surely given them self belief and confidence to bounce back from any situation. It showed in today’s match as well. But credit to the Rising Pune Supergiants to come out and play some real good cricket with a depleted side. This win should give them a lot of much needed confidence and a new viewpoint towards the remaining matches now.