Fire in the belly: Delhi go atop 

Fire in the belly: Delhi go atop , the vie

It was a clash between teams at the opposite ends of the table when the Indian Premier League (IPL) resumed, and from the first ball to last, the match played out accordingly.

Delhi Capitals played like a well-drilled unit and now have one foot in the playoffs with five games left after an eight-wicket stroll with more than two overs left. Sunrisers Hyderabad, on the other hand, cut a sorry figure. Devoid of enterprise, they looked like a team going through the motions with nothing to play for.

Talisman cuts sorry figure

David Warner hadn’t played a competitive game since being summarily dropped from the playing XI and removed from captaincy. And the way he played the three balls from Anrich Nortje in the first over suggested he hadn’t held the bat much in the interim. He was hurried with the express pace the South African generated, a slight for a batsman raised on fast and bouncy Australian pitches.

The first ball, at 148.7 km per hour, was at yorker length outside off-stump, and Warner was late on it. The next ball, at 145.5 kmph, targeted the off-stump and was pushed to cover.

The third one, bowled at 147 kmph, cramped the Australian for room – which has been his Achilles heel in recent times. Warner tentatively tried to turn it to leg, but a little bit of seam movement away from him resulted in a leading edge and a dolly catch to Axar Patel at point.

Warner, a talisman for Sunrisers, was a shadow of his dominating self during the first phase of the tournament in the Indian summer. Even when he did get a significant score, he was pretty slow in getting there and hurting the team’s overall chances. It’s anybody guess if he would have found his way back in the XI had his opening partner Jonny Bairstow been available.

Soon to turn 35, one wonders if Warner’s best days are behind him or he is keeping his powder dry for the T20 World Cup and the Ashes. With just one win from eight games, Sunrisers can more or less write this season off. And with a mega auction scheduled next year, Warner’s days with the franchise also seem numbered.

Protea power to the fore

Kagiso Rabada has fallen a bit off his proverbial perch of late. After being the leading wicket-taker last season, the South African seemed rather subdued in India in April-May. It didn’t help matters that he missed his partner-in-crime Nortje in tandem for most of the stint. Back in the desert where he excelled in 2020, Rabada was expected to regain his intensity.

The start wasn’t particularly auspicious. Brought on in the fifth over, Rabada saw his first ball being picked up by Wriddhiman Saha for a six behind square. But the South African got his act together, shifted his line to outside off-stump and bounced back with four dot balls. It forced Saha to take matters in his own hands but the wicketkeeper-batsman was woefully late on the pull shot to be caught at midwicket just outside the circle.

Rabada was not seen for the next five overs, but when he returned, he was on a hat-trick as he induced a leading edge off a delivery which cramped and got big on Manish Pandey for a caught-and-bowled dismissal.

His first two overs went for just 11 and with Sunrisers’ top half gone, Rabada was expected to be miserly in the latter stages. But a no-ball and a few fortuitous slogs ruined his spell somewhat. But three wickets from one of the main bowlers – he dismissed Abdul Samad with a short ball after the batsman had slammed him for a boundary – is acceptable any day of the week. In any case, Nortje returning figures of 2/12 meant Rabada never felt much pressure.

Walk in the park

He is no longer in India’s T20 plans, but there are few players better than Shikhar Dhawan at anchoring a modest-to-middling chase. Capitals need a stabilising influence with the shot-a-ball Prithvi Shaw at the other end. Dhawan stayed true to his game – taking time to settle in before picking the bowlers and situations he wanted to target.The returning Shreyas Iyer was rusty to begin with but the task gave him enough opportunity to play himself in. With Rishabh Pant for company, Capitals got home with plenty to spare.

Brief Scores: SRH 134 for 9 (Abdul Samad 28, Axar Patel 2/21, Kagiso Rabada 3/37, Anrich Nortje 2/12) lost to  DC 139/2 in 17.5 overs (Shreyas Iyer 47 no, Shikhar Dhawan 42, Rishabh Pant 35 n.o.).

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