RCB and DC met at the Abu Dhabi International Cricket Stadium for a high-stakes league match tonight. When the penultimate game of the round-robin stage began on a flat surface in Abu Dhabi, we still did not know the names of 3 of the teams qualified for the playoffs. Such has been the close competition in this year’s IPL, that the fate of 4 teams depended on a couple of final matches.
DC won the toss and elected to field. Shreyas Iyer made an interesting change to the team when he replaced Hetmeyer with Rahane in Game 11. Historically, DC has gone for firepower over solidity in terms of their hitting. The change in DC’s batting lineup just showed the value of solidity in the T20 format even in crucial games like these.
Both teams were coming off a losing streak. DC has lost 4 games in a row while RCB has lost 3. Any of their losing streaks were supposed to end tonight. In a battle between 2 out of shape teams, the team that sets up the momentum early usually wins the match. Shreyas Iyer did exactly that with his brilliant placements on the pitch. With point back, point, coverage, halfback Iyer packed up the opposite side and asked Joshua Phillipe to go over the top. Joshua Phillipe is not a great pass shooter and with Steve Smith’s stance, his only scoring option was to cut a line of coverage over the infield. Courtesy of some accurate bowling from Daniel Sams, Phillipe found it difficult to get going and was eventually left with Prithvi Shaw on deck. Iyer’s first plan was successfully executed and that gave DC an early lead.
Virat Kohli and the responsibly impressive Paddikal cemented the entry as they have all season. However, just as they have established themselves well throughout the season, they have failed to take their game to the next level. Virat, once again, went down at a critical moment after setting up, when he overcame a spinner flown from Ashwin to the middle of the deep wicket.
Some tight bowling from Axar and Ashwin at the intermissions meant that DC dominated the intermissions as well, after a decent power play. This season, Ashwin is throwing his best cue ball spell in the last 5 years. I think he tried too many things including the leg spin and it’s very reassuring to see him come back to his floating spin strength.
Paddikal followed shortly after Kohli after 51 well done from 40 deliveries and Morris joined the procession in the same over. Anrich Nortje looked exceptional at death for the first time in the last 5 matches and regular wickets hurt RCB’s dream of posting a high score. Clearly AB De Villiers was left with too much to do alone as he put up a lone battle on 35 of 21 deliveries to set up a decent score for RCB. For the first time in the last 4 matches, DC looked disciplined to death as both Rabada and Nortje finally executed their yorkers and slows to perfection.
It’s in chases like these that you need your seasoned hitters to come to the party and DC 2 of their most seasoned compatriots took the responsibility tonight. But before we talk about Dhawan and Rahane, we must take a moment to applaud Siraj for firing Shaw. That ball that angles into the mid-leg stump and then back away to remove the top of the stump is a dream delivery for any pacer and Siraj would want to play it in loops in the near future.
After Shaw’s early firing, Rahane and Dhawan teamed up to close out the game for DC. Rahane has found it difficult to break into double figures this season, but in his team’s most crucial game,. He came good. Shikhar Dhawan fired in his own signature style as Rahane punched, shoved, swept and punched with authority.
When Shikhar Dhawan is moving to the front foot and playing those crisp shots, he’s a joy to watch in the crease. Dhawan came out to the spinners and led the pace of Morris and Siraj with ease to disrupt the RCB bowling.
The lynchpin of RCB’s attack throughout the tournament has been Yuzvendra Chahal. The duo of Dhawan and Rahane were smart enough to play him, without taking any unnecessary risks against the leggie. In fact, the ease with which Rahane and Dhawan traded for Chahal led Virat to bring in Shahbaz Ahmed to push the batsmen into taking some risk.
Dhawan landed some heavy blows against Shahbaz to complete his half-century of blitzkrieg, after which he eventually fell caught on a fine short leg. However, Rahane stood her ground and made sure DC went smoothly in this vital pursuit. He played an extremely vital 58-run inning to ensure DC made the playoffs as a top 2 team.
The fact that DC took the game deep and did not try to win it before 17.3 overs ensured that RCB also qualified for the playoffs, but in 3rd position. Therefore, tomorrow’s clash proves to be vital for SRH, as a win for them would ensure they sneak in as all 4.he team in the playoff race.