IPL 2021: DC put champions MI in jeopardy

Delhi Capitals prevail in a low-scoring battle of attrition as Rohit Sharma's men get put in danger of elimination.

Two-time defending champions Mumbai Indians’ playoff hopes received a big setback at the end of a slow-burner in Sharjah. Delhi Capitals completed the 130-run chase in the final over and leave Mumbai languishing in sixth place. Delhi, who have had a relatively straightforward run into the final four, would be relieved with a tough win before the playoffs. Mumbai’s fate, meanwhile, is out of their hands now.

Iyer digs in

At the crease in the fifth over, Shreyas Iyer had faced 20 balls by the end of the 15th on a laborious track that demanded batsmen to play themselves in. As a result, Iyer was a bystander for most of Delhi’s chase (read: implosion) that saw batsmen getting out trying to force the pace.

Iyer himself started off ramping off-spinner Jayant Yadav for two runs on the second ball he faced. Afterwards, he dug in. And in Ravichandran Ashwin, Iyer finally found a partner ready to rotate strike. They ran down the run-a-ball chase, and Ashwin sealed it with a six, exacting a small measure of revenge on Krunal Pandya, who had finished Mumbai’s innings similarly against Ashwin.

Delhi Capitals skipper Rishabh Pant, for better or worse, plays like someone mashing buttons on a video game controller. On Saturday especially, each ball was an event. The left-hander came in with both his openers gone in the space of five balls, and clobbered Krunal over deep midwicket for a six. On a slow, low wicket, with Aussie seamer Nathan Coulter-Nile dropping the pace, Pant went for three straight pulls, edging two and missing the last. When Jasprit Bumrah had him struggling from around the wicket, Pant hoicked him off a length for a boundary and drove him straight down the ground for another.

Pant tried a switch-hit off Jayant when a bottom edge saved him from an LBW dismissal. Next over, he tried it against Coulter-Nile. There were some textbook forward defences thrown in for good measure, but Pant eventually perished slogging Jayant to Hardik Pandya at long-on.

Earlier, Shikhar Dhawan and Prithvi Shaw had got out attempting to accelerate. After an imperious inside-out six off Jayant, Dhawan twice dabbed the ball to point and set off for a single, before being sent back by Shaw. Already down the track before the third ball was bowled, and in no mood to change his mind, Dhawan ran through for a single. A Kieron Pollard direct hit found him short of his crease.

Shaw, meanwhile, twice played shots not many would do on the Sharjah pitch. The first was a silken cover drive through extra cover off Trent Boult in the first over. The second, an attempted pull off Krunal. The ball expectedly stayed low, and the DRS confirmed that it would have crashed into the stumps. Shimron Hetmyer’s 8-ball 15 wrested back some momentum for a sluggish Delhi, before Iyer and Ashwin completed the chase.

Beaten for pace

Earlier, Delhi seamers efficiently exploited the surface with change of pace. South African speedster Anrich Nortje quickly ditched pace for back-of-the-hand change-ups, which dropped his deliveries by 40kmph. Compatriot Kagiso Rabada rolled his fingers for cutters.

It was Avesh Khan who truly wreaked havoc with the change of pace. His 135kmph off-cutters would dig into the track and turn. But it was the faster balls that had Mumbai batsmen in trouble. He cranked up the pressure on Rohit Sharma, who tried to break free by pulling a quick wide short ball, and holed out to Rabada at third man. Avesh then came back at the end to bowl full, quick, and straight to clean up Hardik Pandya and Coulter-Nile.

With the seamers straight-jacketing them, Mumbai batsmen tried to attack Axar Patel, who got his three wickets in the most un-Axar-like fashion. Quinton de Kock and Saurabh Tiwary were caught going after wide, loopy deliveries. Suryakumar Yadav hadn’t put a foot wrong till he chipped an Axar full toss to long-on.

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