Pant’s blitzkrieg takes Capitals to top spot

Rahane’s dazzling century goes in vain as Rajasthan Royals taste their seventh loss.

By Author  |  Published: 23rd Apr 2019  1:10 am

Jaipur: Ousted Rajasthan Royals skipper Ajinkya Rahane (105 not out off 63 balls) roared back to form but Rishabh Pant (78 not out, 36 balls, 6×4, 4×6) stole the thunder as he steered Delhi Capitals to a six-wicket victory in the IPL at Sawai Man Singh Stadium on Monday.

In pursuit of a challenging 192, Pant played a stunning and entertaining innings to take Capitals past the RR’s total with four balls to spare. This was Capitals’ seventh win from 11 matches and climbed to second place while Royals suffered their seventh loss from ten matches.

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Left-hander Shikhar Dhawan (27-ball 54; 8×4, 2×6) and Shaw (42) were off to a rollicking stand. The former looked in good touch and the opening stand was worth 72 runs in 7.3 overs. Leg spinner Shreyas Gopal gave the crucial breakthrough to RR when he lured Dhawan to doom with a googly and had the left-hander stumped. In space of five runs, Capitals suffered a further blow when their leading scorer Shreyas Iyer was back in the pavilion. The skipper was out to a poor pull shot and was caught at mid-wicket.

The early dismissal of Iyer brought in Pant. The dashing left-hander along with opener Shaw rebuilt the Capital innings. The gutsy Pant batted with a lot of flourish. The floodgates opened as Shaw too revelled to keep Capitals in hunt.

Jofra Archer was unlucky in the 16th over when a delivery hit the stumps but Shaw was fortunate to survive as the ball did not dislodge the bails. However, Shaw was out in the next over when he was caught in the deep. The third wicket realised 84 runs off 48 balls to raise hopes for Delhi. But Pant stayed till the end. He signalled his team’s victory with a huge six in the 20th over.

Earlier, Rahane struck three sixes and 11 fours in 63-ball century knock while Steve Smith contributed 50 off 32 deliveries.

Asked to bat after Shreyas Iyer called correctly at the toss, Rahane spearheaded Rajasthan Royals’ innings after getting a life on 16, the culprit being Ishant Sharma, who dropped a sitter at short fine-leg.

The costly reprieve hurt the visitors, but Delhi did well to prevent RR from going past 200. Entering the game with over 650 runs against Delhi in the league, Rahane chose his favourite opponents to find form, and when he walked back to the dressing room, he had over 750 to his name.

To start with, Rahane drove Ishant through a crowded off-side field for a boundary, a shot that had his characteristic elegance written all over it. Stripped of captaincy last week following a string of poor results, the 30-year-old went into attack mode and smashed Axar Patel for a six and a four at the Sawai Man Singh Stadium, which had a dash of pink.

Unfazed by the sight of pacer Kagiso Rabada steaming in, he smoked the South African’s short of a length delivery down the ground for another maximum. He reached his 50 by dispatching Chris Morris over the mid-wicket for a four and clebrated it with fist pumps. A flurry of boundaries followed as Rahane galloped along to bring up his second IPL hundred, the first coming seven years ago.

Meanwhile, Smith, who replaced Rahane as captain hours before the start of their last match against Mumbai Indians, struck medium pacer Sherfane Rutherford for three consecutive boundaries to score his second successive half century of the season.

Even as Smith and Ben Stokes got out in quick succession, Rahane grew in confidence as he hit Morris for a boundary over mid-off. At the other end, Ashton Turner fell for a third golden duck.