Pant, bowlers help Daredevils crush Lions

Rishabh Pant of Delhi Daredevils pulls a delivery to the boundary during match 31 of the Vivo IPL 2016 (Indian Premier League) between the Gujarat Lions and the Delhi Daredevils held at Saurashtra Cricket Association Stadium, Rajkot, India on the 3rd May 2016 Photo by Shaun Roy / IPL/ SPORTZPICS

In another clinical display, Delhi Daredevils’ bowlers restricted table-toppers Gujarat Lions to 149, setting up a convincing eight-wicket win in Rajkot’s last game of the season. In the chase, Rishabh Pant and Quinton de Kock blazed a 115-run partnership off 81 balls the side’s fourth-highest opening stand to help Daredevils breeze to the second spot on the points table. Despite successive losses, Lions retained their place at the top. It was the 23rd win by a chasing side in 31 games this season.

After opting to bowl, Daredevils’ bowlers set the game up with the first four overs. It looked like Shahbaz Nadeem had trapped Brendon McCullum in front in the first over, but umpire Chris Gaffaney indicated that the batsman had got an inside edge. After facing three off the first 16 balls, McCullum charged at a Zaheer Khan slower ball. Like most of Zaheer’s offcutters this season, it beat McCullum’s wild swing and clipped the off stump.

Two balls later, Smith chipped a long-hop from Nadeem to long-on. In the same over, Aaron Finch, who returned after a hamstring injury, got a leading edge off his attempted sweep to short fine leg. Lions’ three overseas batsmen were dismissed and already, the middle order was limited to singles and twos into Saurashtra Cricket Association Stadium’s large pockets. The score at the end of six overs read 35 for 3, Lions’ lowest Powerplay returns of the season.

Apart from a well-timed upper cut for six, Suresh Raina struggled to find his timing. Dinesh Karthik, though, accrued his runs through well-placed sweeps and flicks in the ground’s vast expanses. Just when it looked like Lions had consolidated after the early jolt, Raina was stumped after misjudging a googly from Amit Mishra.

Thereafter, Ravindra Jadeja and Karthik resorted to the same modus operandi as the previous few overs. However, the pair set up a solid platform for the end overs. Since the 13th over, Lions found at least one boundary an over, save the 19th.

The last five overs yielded 50 as Daredevils couldn’t prevent do much to prevent twos. Yet, such was the damage done in the first four overs that Lions could only muster a sub-par 149.

De Kock and Pant, promoted to the opening slot, effectively finished the game by plundering nine boundaries in a 61-run Powerplay. Pant was particularly dominant with scythed cuts off the seamers’ wide offerings. When the ball was straight, Pant used his strong bottom-hand to whip fours through the arc at midwicket.

After matching Pant in the Powerplay, de Kock laid anchor and milked the bowling for singles. Pant, though, did not slow down. He used his feet to smear and swipe towards the long-on region as he struck his first limited-overs fifty, off 25 balls.

Both Pant and de Kock were dismissed after across-the-line heaves, but Sanju Samson and JP Duminy, who returned after regaining fitness, took Daredevils home with 16 balls remaining.