Delhi Capitals returned to winning ways on Saturday, as they beat Kolkata Knight Riders by 18 runs in Sharjah. In yet another high-scoring game at the venue, DC put up 228/4 in 20 overs and KKR nearly pulled off yet another miraculous run-chase, thanks to the efforts from Eoin Morgan (44 off 18 balls) and Rahul Tripathi (36 off 16 balls) towards the ending overs of the game.
In only three matches played at the venue so far, Sharjah has seen more sixes (90) than any other stadium. In fact, there have been more sixes than fours (82) in Sharjah so far in this tournament. At a ground which provides such instability between the bat and ball, it becomes critically important for the batsmen to plan their innings.
In the post-match press conference, DC coach Mohammad Kaif had said that there was no target in mind when the side batted first – and it is understandable. In the previous match played at the venue last Sunday, Rajasthan Royals broke the record for the highest run-chase in the history of the tournament against the Kings XI Punjab. Merely six days later, KKR threatened to break it. While the pinpoint accuracy from Anrich Nortje and Marcus Stoinis denied the Knight Riders a memorable victory, the partnership between Shreyas Iyer and Rishabh Pant in the first innings also proved critical to Delhi’s win in the game.
A template for the future?
After RR’s victory over KXIP, Sanju Samson had said that batting second in Sharjah is more advantageous. “With my experience, batting second in smaller grounds means that you're one step ahead of the opponent. With smaller grounds and good wickets anything is chaseable in this tournament,” he had said.
Delhi, however, were able to sustain pressure from KKR, successfully defending the total, and the partnership between Iyer and Pant played a crucial role in the same.
The duo added 72 runs for the third wicket in merely 31 balls. The only dot ball throughout the partnership came in the 31st delivery, in which Pant was dismissed. Throughout their time on the crease, the duo kept the scoreboard ticking – taking 16 ones, and three twos, and hitting 9 fours and two sixes.
That was fun 🥳 Thanks for all the wishes! We carry on 💪 pic.twitter.com/knXRmtiqsK— Shreyas Iyer (@ShreyasIyer15) October 3, 2020
Immediately after Pant’s arrival at the crease in the 13th over, Dinesh Karthik brought Pat Cummins into the attack. It was a move which could’ve reaped rewards but the duo remained unfazed with the shorter ground dimensions, resisting the urge to loft. Even as they ‘saw off’ Cummins, Iyer and Pant garnered 11 runs off the over by only taking singles and doubles in the first five balls, before a fullish delivery was sent away for a grounded four by the DC captain.
On a few occasions, the KKR pacers attempted yorkers wide outside-off which were tucked away for singles and doubles – and even fours, as the ground is short enough for miscues to travel the distance. The consistent flow of runs forced the KKR bowlers to change lengths - a move which worked in the batsmen’s favour, as length deliveries were sweetly timed away for boundaries.
‘Holding one end’ not an option:
Most importantly, though, it was the equal contribution from both the batsmen which allowed for the consistent pace of run-scoring throughout the partnership. Iyer faced 19 balls for his 37, while Pant scored 38 in 17 deliveries. Unlike in the previous match at the venue where KXIP’s KL Rahul largely ‘held’ one end for his opening partner Mayank Agarwal to do the hitting, both the DC batsmen enjoyed a parallel flow of runs. And this could likely be a template for the rest of the teams to follow.
On the evidence of last two matches at the venue, no total seems to be enough to defend.
Rahul played 54 balls for his 69 against Rajasthan Royals at this venue. Among the five players who faced more than 25 deliveries in that game, Rahul’s strike-rate (127.78) was the lowest – the next-best was Rahul Tewatia’s 170.97. Interestingly, Rahul also played the same number of dot balls as Tewatia (12) in his innings, but the RR batsman’s hitting eventually made the difference.
And so, Shreyas Iyer and Rishabh Pant showed that exploiting the conditions on offer at Sharjah is more rewarding than keeping value to the wicket. The duo was successful in keeping the scoreboard ticking at all times and worked with bowlers’ mind, forcing them to offer lengths which – 9 out of 10 times - would result in batsmen’s favour in a ground like Sharjah's.