The Delhi Capitals were beaming. Shreyas Iyer was sporting a wide grin on Friday night. The delight was understandable considering the ease at which they beat Rajasthan Royals despite a sub-par batting performance in IPL 2020.
Sporting triumphs are not always about comprehensive wins. There are days when things don’t work in a team’s favour. That’s when the team’s character shines through, allowing them to scrap it out for scratchy wins. A win is a win, and it doesn’t matter how it’s won. That’s what champions do. Win matches even on days when they are off-colour.
That’s what Delhi did in Sharjah. It showed that they have the skill and will to win their maiden IPL title. It was no their best game. Their batting was not at its best; they lost three wickets inside the powerplay. Run-outs ruined at least two promising partnerships. Yet, they recovered to post 183 mainly through Stoinis (39 off 30 balls) and Shimron Hetmyer (45 off 24) despite Jofra Archer’s three-wicket haul.
A total of 183 underscores their tenacity and their late middle-order batsmen’s capability to fetch runs under pressure. That will serve them well in the playoffs.
Any target below 200 is difficult to defend in Sharjah, given its short boundaries and the placid wicket. That’s what history tells us. But Delhi have a bunch of top-class bowlers who don’t heed the lessons of history. They back their skills to get wickets, and that’s precisely what happened.
When captain Steve Smith and young Yashasvi Jaiswal looked like stringing together a partnership, they choked off the runs to elicit risky strokes from the batsmen. That slow scoring phase impacted the rest of the batsmen who tried to step up the run rate only to give away their wickets.
If the bowlers stuck to their task admirably, the fielding standards rose by several notches. Some terrible catching has marred IPL 2020, but Delhi players pulled off some blinders. Shikhar Dhawan’s leaping catch to dismiss Jos Buttler was sensational, but Hetmyer’s two lunging catches in the deep took the breath away. Such catches win matches, and Delhi’s victory is a prime example.
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Delhi have a side to land their first championship. But playoffs are always tricky. Talent and skill are not enough. Nerves matter. Aside from the match against Kings XI Punjab that went into the Super Over, Delhi is yet to undergo a nerve-jangling encounter. That’ll tell us whether they have it in them to win the championship.
For Rajasthan, the miserable batting streak warrants a rigorous examination. Smith did try gamely, but the same cannot be said of Sanju Samson. Buttler fell to a fine catch. If one of the three doesn’t bat deep, Rajasthan are in trouble. A fourth straight loss from six matches is big trouble.
Delhi will savour Friday’s win. A tough win that will steel them for bigger battles ahead.