MI and DC faced off against each other at the Dubai International cricket stadium with a place in the final at stake. The battle promised to be a mouth-watering one as MI has been the best team in the tournament and DC looks to have found their ideal batting lineup in the last match. Doing away with Shimron Hetmeyer and including Rahane in the mix gave DC much more solidity in terms of batting. What that also meant was that they could play Daniel Sams to trouble the batsmen with some swing in the initial overs.
DC won the toss and chose to field on a dream batting pitch at Dubai. MI welcomed all their bowling superstars after their debacle in their last league match against SRH. Very rightly, Rohit Sharma pointed out at the toss that it is a fresh match and they are not looking to take any hangover from their last league match.
Shreyas Iyer’s men began the match in a grand fashion. There are reasons why big players deliver in big matches. Instead of withering under pressure, they rise to the occasion and raise their game at critical junctures to win the battle. Ashwin, as a white ball bowler has been neglected time and again after the 2017 ICC Champions Trophy. I stated in the last match, that it feels refreshing to see Ashwin go back to do what he does the best. I personally felt that he tried too many things in the last couple of years, including bowling leg-spin, but this year he has turned up with the right frame of mind.
He accounted for Rohit Sharma in the 2nd over of the match, opening the game altogether for Delhi Capitals. QDK and Surya took charge of the situation from here on. Incredible hitting from the duo resulted in MI seizing the momentum back from DC, after the initial Rohit dismissal. Rabada and Nortje were taken to the cleaners, with absolutely no swing on offer and Mumbai cruised to a comfortable 64-1 in the powerplay.
The biggest change that has occurred for Surya this year, has been his ability to milk singles amidst the big shots. He has always been a person who was very capable of clearing the legside boundary with his sweeps, slog-sweeps and pulls, but the fact that he could not pick up singles off good deliveries created undue pressure on him. This year, he is hitting that big six and picking up singles of the remaining deliveries to convert it into an 11-12 run over. Another vast improvement in his batting is that he is standing much more upright while playing the shots. Earlier he used to crouch while playing the leg-side flicks, that closed down his off-side game quite a lot. The upright stance helps him to open up the offside and play the cover drives and square drives to good effect.
QDK and Surya took MI to 78 in 7 overs, before both fell in quick succession. Once again, Ashwin struck with a dipping off-spinner to dismiss the South African that triggered a mini-collapse in the MI middle order. Ashwin showed his mettle in the high-pressure match, as MI lost 3 wickets for 25 runs to slump to 101-4. Due credit to Ashwin for bringing back DC into the match, as he accounted for 2 of those 3 wickets- the slump included the dismissal of the intimidating Kieron Pollard. Ashwin finished with 3 for 29 in his 4 overs, handing the advantage to DC in the middle overs.
MI is a 4-time IPL champion not because they have the likes of Rohit, Pollard, or Bumrah in the lineup. It is because, even after you take out those big names, you have a team that can defeat most other franchises of the tournament. The biggest USP of the team is that they are never really looking to consolidate, they are looking to counterattack even from weak situations. That is exactly what Ishan Kishan and Hardik Pandya did today.
At 140-5, Pandya-Kishan was the last recognized batting pair for MI. However, instead of fretting over it, they backed their strength and took on Rabada and Nortje. Ishan Kishan continued his dream form to race to another half-century and India’s very own version of Andre Russell, Hardik Pandya scored a blitzkrieg 37 off 14 deliveries. The most notable part of their partnership was that they targetted the V between the deep cover and deep mid-wicket. Neither Ishan nor Hardik tried to lap it over fine-leg or third-man and they majestically put together a match-changing partnerhsip of 60 off 29 balls to take MI to the 200-run mark.
The first over of the Delhi chase brought back memories of the IPL 2013 final. Mike Hussey was the orange cap holder that season with 733 runs. Suresh Raina had an excellent season as well with 548 runs in the tournament. MI was the underdog coming into the final, facing off against a clinical CSK. MI set an under-par target of 146 for CSK and at the halfway stage, it looked like CSK would be on their way for the 3rd IPL title. However, Malinga began with a bang, removing both Hussey and Raina in the first over itself. The jolt was so significant that CSK could not recover from the same throughout the inning and went on to lose the final by 18 runs, despite MS Dhoni’s fighting 63.
Tonight, Boult was like Malinga 2.0. Boult steamed in and induced an edge off Prithvi Shaw with a delivery that went with the lefty arm’s angle. A couple of balls later, his delivery nipped in from the same spot to trap the in-form Rahane infront of his stumps. Even before, DC could begin the chase, the game got over in a jiffy. A double-wicket maiden in the very first over of a 200 plus chase is more than a dream start for the fielding side.
If there were any doubts that the match wasn’t over, Bumrah shattered the stumps of Shikhar Dhawan with a toe-crushing yorker to dismiss the 3rd batsman for DC in the very next over. Just for the information of my readers, MI was yet to concede a single run and they had already dismissed the top 3 of DC.
From then on, the consequence of the match was merely a formality. Stonis played a good hand of 65, but at no point in the chase, did Delhi look like being in the match at all. Iyer and Pant continued their horrid form and Delhi succumbed to an embarrassing 57 run defeat. The margin could have been much more, had it not been for Stoinis and Axar Patel who saved their team from being in shambles.
MI has been the best team in the tournament by far and they deserve the first spot in the finals. Will they face an under-confident DC? Or will it be one of SRH and RCB? We will have to wait to find that out.