When KL Rahul didn’t walk out at the toss, it was evident that Mayank Agarwal had to pull off everything for Punjab and he tried to, with a 99 to take them to 166. But in the end, 166 looked under-par, with Delhi openers showing teams how to bat on these wickets by securing a seven-wicket win.
Where Delhi won the game
Delhi’s start would have reminded several viewers of the bullet trains with the innings being high-speed, high-octane in the powerplay. In fact, they have also registered four of the five best starts in the first six overs this season. That’s where the game was won and lost, with Delhi scoring 63 runs in the powerplay, which eliminated Punjab Kings from standing any chance of winning the encounter. Chasing 167, conceding 63 in the powerplay often ends up as the difference, especially if you have just scored 39 in your first six overs.
Re-invented Ishant Sharma allows Delhi to focus elsewhere
During the start of the season, Delhi had no choice but to field Avesh Khan, Chris Woakes and Tom Curran, with Avesh and Woakes bowling in the powerplay. While they struck an immediate chord in the clash against Chennai, Delhi’s batting, when came under the scanner prompted a change. That change resulted in Steve Smith walking into the setup, which prompted the management to choose between Ishant Sharma and Chris Woakes. And the management went with Ishant, not just based on his experience but based on what he brings to the table. Do you wonder what that is? Slow out-swingers and fast in-swingers have been two of Ishant’s new white-ball weapons, which has thus far been very effective. Thus far before this clash, Ishant had only picked one wicket but he isn’t in the team as a wicket-taking option, given that Kagiso Rabada and Avesh are the wicket-takers. Ishant is in the team to get them off to a good start in the powerplay, to cut off the boundary balls. In the powerplay, Delhi have conceded the second-least runs, at 7.30 RPO, only behind Punjab’s 7.19. Ishant has bowled 8 overs in that, conceding just 48 runs, at an economy rate of 6, with 45.8% of his deliveries being dot-balls.
KL Rahul’s injury has put Punjab’s powerplay plans out of the window
While Mayank Agarwal missed out on the last encounter, recovering from his injury, the fact that KL Rahul existed allowed them to power their way to an important victory over Royal Challengers Bangalore in their last clash. But now, they don’t have that liberty, their skipper, their pillar of strength, Rahul has been ruled out of this clash but potentially, the entire season. That has put Punjab in a big spot of bother, what do they do? In this clash, the franchise fielded Prabhsimran Singh and Mayank Agarwal at the top of the order. But more potentially, they have to look at other options to allow for long batting order. That’s where Chris Henry Gayle walks in, the big Jamaican is one of Punjab’s core players. His preferred position, at the top of the order. Especially given that Rahul’s loss would ensure a meltdown in the batting, utilising Gayle at the top of the order, alongside Prabhsimran Singh would allow Punjab to make the fullest use of the powerplay. Given that Mayank has played 23 games at No.3, him slotting to that position would allow for Punjab to keep a left-right combination going deep. Not just that, Mayank averages 24.5 at No.3, with a strike rate of 135. So why not use him at No.3 and maximize on the powerplay?
Time for Delhi to unleash Sam Billings
Since the start of 2020, English batsman Sam Billings has been the man on a mission, with 346 runs in just 247 deliveries, averaging 34.6 with the bat. Not just averaging more than Steve Smith, Billings also has a far superior strike rate of 140.1, which has been one of Delhi’s weaknesses this season. In the middle-overs, Delhi have lacked the steam, especially once their openers are sent back to the hut. That’s where the Ricky Ponting team has employed the Australian Smith, who has done well but certainly hasn’t done anything different to their skipper, Rishabh Pant. In fact, this season Smith’s strike rate has been far from okay, at 112.9, averaging just 26.2. For whichever reason the franchise is holding back Sam Billings, that should end and end really soon. Otherwise, they would end up relying on their openers to do all the work with the middle-order struggling to get any sort of momentum.
Punjab Kings’ trust in Riley Meredith makes little sense
Riley Meredith has pace, in fact, he has also bowled a lot of deliveries, which have topped the speed charts this season but that shouldn’t make him a sure-shot starter. In fact, it shouldn’t even have him in the team, with the team struggling to pick up wickets in the powerplay. Thus far in the season, Punjab have struck nine times in the powerplay, five less than the league leaders, Chennai Super Kings. After having played five games for the franchise in the tournament, the Australian speedster has only accounted for three wickets and has only bowled 15.2 overs. Now for a pacer of his calibre, at least if he hasn’t picked up wickets, he should have at least restricted the run flow? No, he hasn’t even done that, conceding 9.52RPO, with the economy rate increasing to 15 in the death overs.
But at the same time, Punjab could have given the longer rope to Jhye Richardson, who has an equal number of wickets in the season but has come at tougher venues, in Mumbai, where there has been no real movement for the pacers. In the last year, the Perth Scorchers’ bowler has also picked up 44 wickets, with 14 wickets in the powerplay and 15 in the death overs, bowling 50.4% as dot-balls. Even in this year’s tournament, the Australian pacer has a dot-ball percentage of 62.5 in the powerplay, a phase that Punjab today struggled to control. So, why not just stick with Jhye, especially when Mohammed Shami has struggled to breakthrough?
MVP - Mayank Agarwal
Okay, it was hard, Mayank Agarwal played a brilliant innings, one of the best in the tournament, day, okay at least this match? Yes, that I will definitely give it to you. It was the best of the right-handed batsman that we have witnessed this season. At a point where players around him were struggling, to connect the ball to the bat, there was Mayank, who stood like a wall and finished the innings like a prince. 99 off 58 in Ahmedabad, is a great knock, sadly it came in a losing cause. Sorry, Mayank!
Match Frenzy O Meter - Forcefully paced
What happens on a pitch that is dead? Bowlers get battered right and that’s how it should be. But in Ahmedabad, things were completely different, the bowlers didn’t get battered. The batsmen had to play out of their skins to get any sort of pace on the ball, which seemed forcefully paced. That was kind of how the match was, stop-start-smack-stop-smack and end.