New Delhi: when Rishabh Pant joined Shreyas Iyer in the middle in the 8th over, DD were sailing at 68/1 with a run-rate of close to 10. And from here it was just a matter of maintaining the tempo. With rain a possibility, it was always imperative for DD to keep well above the par score should Duckworth Lewis came into play later on.
Pant has been in form this IPL. He was also aware how RR had won the first leg due to rain and D/L method. It was a grudge he kept while walking out to bat. With no pressure whatsoever, he bullied RR with such power hitting that it felt the ball could break.
While he has suffered against spin, but he took on Shreyas Gopal and lofted him over long-on for his first six. After that it was a blitzkrieg that entertained the crowd to the full. He scored 69 off 29 balls including 7 fours and five sixes to help Delhi reach 196/6 in 17.1 overs before rain interrupted the play. By doing so, Pant also took the Orange Cap from Ambati Rayudu accumulating 375 runs in 9 innings.
Pant stood deep in the crease, so deep that his feet were inside the box. The pitch was very good to bat to and by now he had gotten used to the pace of the pitch. Anything slightly short was sitting up nicely and was asking to be hit. So when Ben Stokes probed the shorter length, Pant slapped it through mid-wicket for a boundary.
And because he stood deep inside the crease, the length ball turned out to be the best ball to hit through the line. Jofra Archer was thumped over long-on for a six. Next up it was Unadkat, who too dropped it short and got the treatment. whatever field you may set against pant, if he has hit it, there is no chance that a fielder could cut it off. It rolls down the ground at such high speed that the fielders simply see the ball hit the skirting.
Spinners too refrained from the bowling fuller to him but Pant's wise approach to stay deep paid rich dividends as he could swivel easily even to a slightly short ball and play the pull powerfully.
Then in the 12th over, Pant milked Kulkarni for 20 runs as he first ramped/pulled for a six and then collected a couple of boundaries through cover on wide yorkers. An example of how his smart approach in the crease helped him in so many ways.
Even Ben Stokes experienced how a yorker could be pummelled if you are standing thus deep. Stokes yorker was perfectly ht through cover for a four by Pant and when he went slower, Pant had much time in the world to guide it on its way to a six.
An over later, Pant's innings came to end as an Unadkat slower one deceived him. Had he stood in his crease and went for the hoic Pant could get a maximum but because he charged down, Unadkat altered the length beautifully to force Pant check his shot. Nevertheless, he stitched an important 92-run stand with skipper Shreyas Iyer, who anchored the DD innings with a sound fifty.