Visakhapatnam: Dispatching the ball deep into the stands is in Rishabh Pant’s ‘muscle memory’ and that’s why he doesn’t need to look at who is bowling to him once he is in a mood to go hammer and tongs. Pant hit five sixes during his 21-ball 49 as he guided Delhi Capitals to a two-wicket victory in the IPL Eliminator against Sunrisers Hyderabad.
“In T20s, you need 40 off 20 or so, then you have to attack one bowler. I don’t see who’s bowling. It’s in our muscle memory, and that’s why we practise so much. It was special because I didn’t try to hit the ball too hard. I was just watching the ball, and I was trying to time the ball,” Pant said at the post-match presentation ceremony.
Chasing a target of 163, Delhi Capitals, who had lost the way after a blazing start, were brought to cusp of victory by young Pant, who smashed 49 off 21 balls with five sixes as West Indies’ Paul finished it off the penultimate ball of the innings with a boundary off Khaleel Ahmed. Pant, who resurrected the innings from a precarious 111 for 5 couldn’t have chosen a better venue than the chairman of selectors MSK Prasad’s home ground to drive home a point on his much-debated World Cup exclusion.
Delhi Capital now face Chennai Super Kings in the second Qualifier in their bid to make it to the maiden IPL final against Mumbai Indians. Needing 34 from three overs, Pant showed brilliant game awareness to target Sunrisers’ weakest link Basil Thampi, smashing him for 21 runs in the 18th over as he brought the game on even keel. A six off Bhuvneshwar Kumar brought the equation down to five runs before Pant in his bid to finish the game was holed out with five required from seven balls.
Man-of-the-match Pant said that he ensured that the mindset remained positive when the team was going for improbable chases. “If you are set on a wicket like this, you have to finish the match for your team. I took it very close, but next time I will finish it for the team. (Pressure) I just try to be positive. If your mindset is negative, it doesn’t help,” said Pant.
Earlier, Delhi Capitals bowlers pulled the plug in the middle overs, restricting Sunrisers Hyderabad to a par score of 162 for 8 on a good batting surface after opting to field. Keemo Paul (3/32 in 4 overs) was ably supported by Amit Mishra (1/16 in 4 overs), Ishant Sharma (2/34 in 4 overs) and Axar Patel (0/30 in 4 overs) as the quartet bowled 40 dot balls between them.
Ishant got rid of Wriddhiman Saha (8), who offered a simple catch to Shreyas Iyer at mid-off. Martin Guptill (36, 19 balls) hit three sixes including two off his countrymate Trent Boult to set the pace in the Powerplay overs which yielded 54 runs.
Credit to Delhi bowlers as the next 14 overs produced only 108 runs. As Guptill was in attacking mood, it gave the normally flamboyant Manish Pandey (30, 36 balls) to play around before the spinners came in operation. Axar and Mishra choked the run-flow and Guptill was accounted for trying to slog sweep the leg-spinner. His innings had four sixes apart from a boundary.
Sunrisers suddenly lost momentum in those middle overs as Pandey and Kane Williamson (27 off 26 balls) added only 34 runs in seven overs before he Karnataka batsman was dismissed by a Keemo Paul slower delivery. Pandey was holed out by Sherfane Rutherford at long-on boundary making it 90 for 3 for Sunrisers. Ishant coming in his second spell bowled the perfect inswinging yorker to send back Williamson. Vijay Shankar (25 off 11 balls) and Mohammed Nabi (20 off 13 balls) added 36 runs in 2.4 overs to beef up the total but Paul kept things tight in the end.
Delhi Capitals’ young captain Shreyas Iyer was also ecstatic. ‘(Last over) I can’t express my emotions. I was sitting and those last two overs were like a hell (laughs). An amazing feeling (to win) and I could see the happiness in everyone’s faces. The joy we share after winning was good,’ said Iyer.