Delhi Capitals missed their two bowling stars dearly, and Shreyas Iyer was out of the entire season with a shoulder injury. Up against was a Chennai Super Kings side who presented a lineup with a batting depth up till No.10. Yet it was Rishabh Pant's side who came on top with an emphatic seven-wicket win, courtesy of a thundering 138-run opening partnership between Shikhar Dhawan and Prithvi Shaw.
R Ashwin's costly return
An over after Chennai presented two left-handers at the crease in Moeen Ali and Suresh Raina, Rishabh Pant introduced Ashwin, his best option to tackle this batting type. Since 2018, Ashwin has a strike rate of 23.5 against lefties in IPL as against 25.6 against righties, although at a tad higher economy rate of 7.79. Ashwin has dismissed Raina only once in 42 balls with the veteran pulling off 37 runs only. Moeen, on the other hand, managed only seven runs off eight balls while being dismissed once in their two T20 meetings
But in his first two overs, he was smashed for 19 runs with either managing two boundaries each in either overs. Pant retained the veteran bowler, but the proceedings remained unchanged as Moeen clobbered Ashwin for two consecutive sixes down to long-on before the left-hander fell off the third delivery.
Ashwin eventually ended with 1 for 47, with Raina adding to his woe with another six. The runs conceded were 15 more than what other Delhi bowlers leaked in the first 11 overs while picking two wickets. This is also the most he has ever conceded after his 53 off four overs for Kings XI Punjab against Sunrisers Hyderabad in 2018.
Chennai's aggressive batting comeback
Batting was a key issue in Chennai's forgettable 2020 season. Their scoring rate of 6.67 in the PowerPlays and 7.14 in the middle overs in the last season was the worst ever by any team in both phases.
Albeit CSK made a usual start to their campaign with the openers going back early and the team stuttering to 33 for two at the end of the first six overs. In the next 10 overs, Chennai added 110 runs to the board for the loss of four wickets, implying a scoring rate of 10.39 with a boundary every 4.3 balls as against 8.15 recorded in the previous season.
Much of their firepower was inspired by Suresh Raina the vital cog that CSK missed last season. Chinna Thala added 40 runs off 23 balls in the middle overs while being ably assisted by 12-ball 25 by Moeen and 16-ball 23 from Ambati Rayudu.
Overall, CSK scored 26 boundaries in the match, the most they have managed in three seasons.
Delhi missed Rabada-Nortje
Delhi Capitals were the second-best team in the death overs last season with an economy rate of 9.67 and a strike rate of 10.76. Kagiso Rabada leaked at 8.95 runs per over in the death with 17 wickets, the most last season, while Anrich Nortje recorded an economy rate of 8.44 with 7 wickets.
With either missing the game owing to quarantine rules, Delhi's death-overs bowlers were Chris Woakes and Tom Curran. But since 2018, while Woakes has leaked at 10.90 runs per over in the death overs in T20s, Curran's number is 10.48.
The two combined to concede 40 runs in three overs with CSK pulling off six boundaries. The only over of respite for Delhi was Avesh Khan's final over - the 18th - where he leaked only five singles.
Shaw outplays Chahar
Prithvi Shaw was troubled by the moving ball in the previous season where he scored only 223 runs at 17.3. Deepak Chahar was the only bowler in the CSK lineup to dish out that variety. The pacer, in the past, has dismissed Shaw five times in 39 balls while leaking 38 runs. But that Vijay Hazare season that Shaw had earlier this year, where he scored a record tally of runs, changed him as a batsman. And on Saturday, he pounced on Chahar to smashed him for 17 runs off 11 balls with three boundaries.
The difference laid in the PowerPlay
In the end, the batting approach in the PowerPlay stood as the difference between the two sides. Chennai lost their openers by the start of the third over with just seven runs on board. Moeen and Raina walked in next, adding 26 runs more in the remaining 23 balls of the PowerPlay before the two teed off hitting boundaries. Chennai missed the trick especially with the kind of batting depth they boasted of following the revelation of the playing XI after toss.
Delhi, however, approached the phase in a significantly contrasting manner. Chennai were the second-best bowling team in the PowerPlay last season, leaking only 7.48 runs. But in Saturday, they conceded at over 10 an over without a single wicket.
CSK bowlers also started off bowling fuller to the Delhi batsman, looking to capitalise on the abilities of the new-ball bowlers to swing the ball. But the plan failed to work out as Chahar and Curran leaked 41 runs in the first two overs. Shardul Thakur added 17 more to their board in the fifth over. DC's 65 runs in the PowerPlay was the most they amassed against Chennai since their 64/0 in 2008 at Chepauk.