Six sixes, on the heels of Prasidh Krishna’s wicket-maiden, were required off the final over for Delhi Capitals to clinch an improbable win. Rovman Powell sent the first three balls from Obed McCoy into the stands to set pulses racing. The third ball was a full-toss and Powell felt it was above waist-height and demanded a no-ball. Umpires didn’t agree and the batsman seemingly threatened to walk out.
From the dug-out, DC skipper Rishabh Pant was gesturing towards Powell. In absence of head coach Ricky Ponting, in room isolation, DC assistant coach Pravin Amre walked up to the umpires, ostensibly to seek an explanation. Eventually, when the game re-started, Powell had lost rhythm, while McCoy had regrouped. Chasing Rajasthan Royals’ 222/2 – the highest total in this IPL yet – DC finished on 207/8 to lose by 15 runs.
In the sixth over of RR’s innings, Jos Buttler sprang to life. Until then, he was going at less than a-run-a-ball. It matched the oddity of Ravindra Jadeja’s two dropped catches against Mumbai Indians on Thursday.
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Khaleel Ahmed had troubled Buttler upfront. A response was due. It came a little late, via a couple of sixes. Buttler moves like a Ferrari in white-ball cricket and becomes a car on flat tyres in the longest format. In the context of the IPL, he is having his finest season, scoring centuries for fun. After his 103 in the previous game against Kolkata Knight Riders, he hammered a 65-ball 116, including nine fours and as many sixes, against DC on Friday. His third century in this edition took his tally to 491 runs in seven matches. The Orange Cap is his to lose.
First the DY Patil Stadium, then Brabourne and now Wankhede have been treated to Buttler’s merry hitting. He has become a crowd favourite in the process. When Mustafizur Rahman pulled out in his run-up and made Buttler wait, the Wankhede crowd roundly booed the DC medium pacer.
The highlight of his innings was the way he dismantled the spinners. DC had quality spinners in their ranks, Kuldeep Yadav and Axar Patel spearheading the attack. On the night, Buttler just toyed with them.
Kuldeep was having a fine IPL. On Friday, however, with the Wankhede pitch offering no assistance, Buttler put on his dancing shoes to undo the chinaman bowler. He skipped down the track to cut down the loop and hit a six. He shimmied down the pitch again and smacked a four to the straight boundary. Buttler wanted to dictate Kuldeep’s length and the two shots had the desired effect. It sapped the spinner’s confidence.
Axar was having an off day and at one point, Buttler treated him with disdain, reverse-sweeping the left-arm spinner between point and backward point for an imperious four. Before that he had made short work of Lalit Yadav and when Kuldeep returned for a new spell, he continued with the momentum – a 15-run over, including back-to-back sixes.
Butter has always been a match-winner in this format. This term, he has embraced consistency to become a ‘Royal’ run-machine. This is excellent news for his franchise and bad news for their opponents. As for the neutrals, his batting – the audacity with which he swept Mustafizur for a four was breathtaking – has been the tournament’s joie de vivre.
Spare a thought for Devdutt Padikkal, whose return to form was a double delight for Royals. In the first five overs, when Buttler was taking a little time to get into the power-hitting groove, he played the role of the senior partner. Three consecutive fours against Mustafizur, the first one with a bit of luck, was the trigger his team needed. Until this game, Padikkal was struggling to hit his straps. On Friday, as he scored a 35-ball 54, he looked every bit the player worthy of his Rs 7.75 crore price tag. His 155-run opening partnership with Buttler ran DC ragged before Sanju Samson contributed handsomely at the death with a 19-ball 46 not out.
On the night, when Trent Boult went for plenty, Royals needed Krishna to stand up to be counted. The pacer had the important wickets of David Warner and Pant in the bag, but his final over was the clincher.
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DC had lost their batting stars – David Warner, Prithvi Shaw and Pant. But Lalit Yadav’s cameo took the game to the death overs. Powell was with him, but the asking rate was steadily climbing. It reached 18 when the penultimate over began. Krishna dismissed Yadav and returned with a wicket-maiden. The drama in the end notwithstanding, that was the game. Krishna ended with 3/22 from four overs. Ravichandran Ashwin and Yuzvendra Chahal, too, bowled very well in tough bowling conditions.