Thirteen seasons, nearly 200 games, two names and a million heartbreaks later – Delhi are in the IPL final.
The Capitals set up a summit clash with Mumbai Indians after a 17-run win over Sunrisers Hyderabad in Abu Dhabi on Sunday, only their second win in their last seven outings.
Having been brushed aside by MI in the first qualifier on Thursday, DC managed to turn a corner against the form team in the tournament – SRH had won five of their last six games to put themselves in contention for a final berth.
Here’s a look back at the moments and decisions that defined the second qualifier of IPL 2020 between Delhi Capitals and Sunrisers Hyderabad.
Fortune favours the brave
And breaking away from convention isn’t a cardinal sin.
Prior to the penultimate game of the season, the final quarter of IPL 2020 had been playing out to a very specific tune. Captains winning the toss had opted to chase in the last 13 games in a row – and 12 of the last 15 matches had been won by the chasing team.
But two of those three losses while chasing belonged to DC, and having lost both their league outings against SRH, the Capitals probably felt the need to change the script.
But that meant going against the grain of the competition in its present phase – and knowing that a failure would be accompanied with severe criticism for deviating from a winning template (for others, at least).
The margin between bravery and foolishness can be a rather fine one, but fortune favoured the brave Capitals.
‘Floater’ Stoinis hulks up
The second of Delhi’s new moves was the much more straightforward one of putting Marcus Stoinis up where he enjoys the most in this format.
Stoinis has a career tally of under 24 runs per innings in T20s, but that swells to more than 34 as an opener. Since his permanent move up the order for Melbourne Stars, Stoinis’ returns in the Big Bash League read thus: 1204 runs from 27 innings, averaging roughly 45 runs (off 33 balls) – while hitting 11 of his 17 scores of 50+ in T20s, including his only century.
Add to that Delhi’s opening woes: Prithvi Shaw couldn’t buy a run over the past month; DC’s last 10 opening partnerships had totalled 62 runs; seven of these ten stands didn’t even survive the first over. This was a no-brainer.
62 in 9.1 overs in the last 10 games; 86 from 8.2 overs in this one. Shikhar Dhawan pushed on to play the more defining knock of the innings, and Shimron Hetmyer’s was possibly the more impactful performance of the first half. But Stoinis provided Delhi what they had seemingly forgotten – a proper platform, a lustrous launchpad.
And as if that wasn’t enough, he made the absolute star-turn with his efforts in the second half: dismissing Priyam Garg and Manish Pandey in his first over, and then putting the final nail in the coffin with the prized scalp of Kane Williamson.
At the start of the tournament, Ricky Ponting had spoken confidently about identifying Stoinis as the ‘floater’ in the DC setup. Two months into the campaign, and when it mattered the most, Stoinis floated like a butterfly – and stung like a bee.
Hetmyer used judiciously, at last
Shimron Hetmyer is a ‘proper’ middle overs batsman for T20 cricket, the type whose absence has hurt many-a-team on many-an-occasion throughout this season. He loves facing spin. He’s not as equipped at dealing with high-end pace, at least not at this point.
Yet, after being sent at number three in Delhi’s opening game, he had found himself outside the top-four in seven of his last eight innings.
Shreyas Iyer had scored at 7.3 runs per over between overs 7 to 15, taking 10 balls for every boundary he hit during this phase. Rishabh Pant, in his annus horribilis, was worse still, going at less than a run-a-ball and needing nearly 11 balls per boundary.
Hetmyer, meanwhile, had a middle overs scoring rate of 8.8 per over – and was needing only seven balls for every boundary.
He had to be batting higher up. And although he almost missed out on the middle overs altogether (more on that later), at least he wasn’t being kept for the tail-end of the innings and was offered a closer to natural role. The impact was instant: 42* off 22 balls, and responsible for two-thirds of Delhi’s runs in their last six overs.
A stinker for the Sunrisers
As pointed above, Stoinis and Hetmyer were the two script-shifters for the Capitals. They shared one more thing in common on Sunday evening in Abu Dhabi.
Stoinis had prodded his way to three off six balls when he offered SRH an opening, only to be dropped by the usually safe-as-houses Jason Holder. Hetmyer was on 25 off 12 when his attempt to take on Holder’s bowling resulted in a slightly tougher chance for Shahbaz Nadeem, but one that was still quite catchable.
Stoinis shellacked 35 more runs from 21 balls over the remainder of his stay; Hetmyer added 17 from 10 balls after his reprieve.
52 runs from 5.1 overs – even not counting the factors of a new man at the crease, and fewer resources for the batting team to utilise, those were two costly drops for the Sunrisers.
And that wasn’t all: they even dropped Dhawan (a total sitter for Rashid Khan) and Iyer (an improbable effort from Williamson) – even though those two fell immediately thereafter, it added to a rather forgettable outing on the park for SRH.
Rabada roars back, just in time
Delhi’s downturn in the latter stages of IPL 2020 was down to a combined combustion of all their stars, but no reversal was hurting them as much as that of their premier strike bowler.
After the dizzying heights of 23 wickets in the first 11 matches at an economy of 7.63 and with a wicket every 11 deliveries, Kagiso Rabada had hurtled down to hugely humbling returns: two wickets in the last four games, while leaking more than 10 runs per over.
With his first ball on Sunday, Rabada sent David Warner packing. The same Warner who had slammed 66 off 34 when these teams last met. The same Warner who had smashed 68 runs from 39 balls he’d faced from Rabada during the Powerplay in all T20s.
Then, with the game awaiting its final decisive turn, Rabada would prove to be the difference.
Abdul Samad and Rashid Khan were just about keeping SRH alive in the contest, seeking a telling blow or two with 23 required from the last 10 balls of the game. With his next three legitimate deliveries, Rabada sent back Samad, Rashid and Sreevats Goswami.
Game, set, match. And DC’s most potent force back in his groove ahead of the most important game in their history.
Caution, Mr. Iyer: Don’t do that against MI
On a day when most decisions worked wonders, one could have almost cost Delhi their spot in the final. Ironically, it involved their decision-maker himself.
Between the striking start of Stoinis and the hefty hitting of Hetmyer, there was an inexplicably insipid innings from Iyer.
You cannot be walking in at 86/1 in 8.2 overs and scoring a run-a-ball 21. You especially can’t be doing that when you decide to come ahead of two left-handers in your setup, both much better equipped to tackle the bowling type coming at you in that phase of the game.
Even ignoring Pant’s poor run of form, there was a rather simple choice in Hetmyer (as mentioned above). And Hetmyer just happened to have a career T20 strike rate above 160 when facing left-arm spin. And he also had a happy memory from last year against Rashid Khan – 32 runs from 15 balls, for RCB versus SRH.
To leave his side on 126/2 at the end of the 14th over when he was dismissed could well have been a match-losing innings from the Capitals’ captain.
It’s just the kind of effort you can ill-afford against Mumbai Indians, if you have to stand a chance against their all-conquering assembly.
For DC’s sake, you’d hope they don’t repeat the same mistake.
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The entire West Indies contingent, including limited overs skipper Kieron Pollard, who were in quarantine after arriving in New Zealand, on Wednesday, cleared the third and final round of the COVID-19 test and will now leave for Auckland to play the first T20I on Friday.
The test was conducted on the group that arrived from the UAE on 14 November after participating in the recently-concluded IPL.
Kohli, who is heading family way in January, will be returning after playing the six white ball games and the opening day/night Test scheduled in Adelaide.