Throughout Lucknow Super Giants’ innings on a sultry Sunday afternoon at the Wankhede Stadium, the scoring rate stayed close to 10-an-over. Having always looked like hitting the 200-mark with wickets in hand, the IPL newcomers finished at 195/3.
Lucknow would have liked more runs at the death, but riding on an outstanding spell by left-arm seamer Mohsin Khan (4-0-16-4) and another impressive outing by googly specialist Ravi Bishnoi (4-0-28-1), they defended the total successfully, registering a six-run win. With 14 points from 10 games, LSG are second in the points table and close to booking a playoffs berth.
If there’s one limitation in the Delhi Capitals’ bowling attack, it’s that they are one-dimensional. Express pacer Anrich Nortje hasn’t played after one forgettable outing. Left-arm pacer Khaleel Ahmed looked in good rhythm, but is out nursing a hamstring injury. Without them, they rely heavily on spin. On days the spinners can’t ring in productive spells, good batters will capitalise. That’s what KL Rahul and Deepak Hooda did for Lucknow with their 95-run second wicket partnership in 61 balls.
Rahul has batted with a sense of authority this IPL. With a show of touch and timing, he hit five sixes, three in front and two behind the wicket before falling for a 51-ball 77. LSG have struggled for a worthy No 3 but Hooda stepped up on Sunday with a 34-ball 52. Shardul Thakur was the only DC bowler amongst wickets, finishing with 3/40 for his mixture of pace-off deliveries.
In the chase, Capitals suffered a double setback when openers Prithvi Shaw and David Warner were dismissed within the first three overs. That’s when Rishabh Pant and Mitchell Marsh, all-too-quiet in the first half of the tournament, decided to step on the gas.
Krunal Pandya, briefly wearing the captain’s armband, introduced himself against Pant, overlooking match-up statistics. He didn’t win that contest. Pant came down heavily on the Player-of-the-Match from the last match with a scoring sequence of 4-6-6-4, making it a 19-run fourth over. It continued to rain sixes in the next two overs, Marsh and Pant taking on Jason Holder and Dushmantha Chameera to bring up their 50-run partnership in 16 balls, taking DC’s powerplay returns to 66/2. But soon, Marsh (37 off 20b) walked back to the slimmest of edges off spinner Krishnappa Gowtham, which wasn’t even traced by the snickometer. That brought Rovman Powell to the crease. The hard-hitting West Indies player had been threatening to win matches off his own, and while he was there, Capitals were in with a chance.
But Mohsin Khan closed the game by having Powell (35 off 21b) and Shardul Thakur (1) caught in the 17th over, smartly using his cutters. Pant’s innings (44 off 30b) too was curtailed by Khan, setting him up with shorter lengths before disturbing his stumps with a full-length delivery. In a match that saw 384 runs amassed, Khan was both miserly and led the wickets tally, accounting for Warner as well. Bought for ₹20 lakh in the auction, he has picked up seven wickets in the last two matches.