Agarwal’s 99 on IPL captaincy debut in vain as Kings slump to fifth loss in eight matches
Delhi Capitals 167 for 3 (Dhawan 69*, Shaw 39) beat Punjab Kings 166 for 6 (Agarwal 99*, Rabada 3-36) by seven wickets
On his IPL captaincy debut, Mayank Agarwal scored 60% of Punjab Kings’ runs in fewer than half the balls but his unbeaten 99 was not enough to push his side to a total that would challenge Delhi Capitals in the chase. Prithvi Shaw and Shikhar Dhawan broke the back of the chase in the Powerplay, and Dhawan went on to seal the win, reclaiming the orange cap as he did so. A sixth win in eight matches took capitals to the top of the table.
Replacing KL Rahul, who had to be pulled out because of appendicitis, Agarwal found himself in a Rahul-like predicament. Losing wickets at the other end added extra slowness to his apparent role of batting through the innings, but a Rahul-like finishing kick took him from 40 off 34 to 99 off 58. However, as with Rahul, you need at least one quick contribution from the other end to make the strategy work. Agarwal found none, with IPL debutant Dawid Malan‘s run-a-ball 26 being the only other contribution to talk of.
Ishant circles the prey, Rabada swoops in
Ishant Sharma, an under-rated part of Capitals’ success, began the match with a maiden to Prabhsimran Singh, moving the ball either way to tie up the batter. With just 15 off the first three overs, Capitals knew there was an opportunity around. On came Kagiso Rabada and for the first time in the IPL took two wickets in the Powerplay. The under-pressure Prabhsimran found mid-off, and Gayle missed a swinging full toss that hit the top of off. Kings 39 for 2 at the end of the Powerplay.
Two men drop anchor
Against two fingerspinners, Lalit Yadav and Axar Patel, Agarwal and Malan failed to transfer the pressure back on to the bowlers. Only one boundary came in the next five overs. The spinners denied them the rank bad ball, and the batsmen weren’t too keen to take risks on good balls.
Malan began the 12th over at 11 off 17, but a bowling change to pace brought some freedom for him. The freedom was short-lived as Axar came back to knock his leg stump over. The run-out of Deepak Hooda followed to make it 88 for 2 in the 14th over.
Agarwal takes off
At this point, Agarwal had faced only 29 of the 81 legal deliveries bowled for a debate-inducing 35. Not only did he turn around the share of strike in the remaining innings, Agarwal corrected the strike-rate too. He faced 29 of the remaining 39 balls, sending nine of them past the fence and scoring 64 additional runs. The remaining 10 balls brought two wickets and 10 runs. The hitting was breathtaking but it was also evidence that the pitch was easy enough to hit through the line of the ball.
Dhawan, Shaw carry on the fireworks
And the Capitals batting is built to hit through the line. Before this match, three of the top four Powerplay scores in this IPL belonged to Capitals. They duly made a fourth entry in the top five with an unbeaten 63 in the first six overs. Believe it or not, it came after Riley Meredith troubled both Dhawan and Shaw in his first two overs. Against other bowlers, though, Shaw ran riot and Dhawan followed suit. Shaw hit three sixes and three fours in the Powerplay, and Dhawan managed four fours. It included a first-ball six off Kings’ key bowler in the middle overs, Ravi Bishnoi.
Dhawan carries on
Shaw perished trying to dominate everyone, bowled first ball by left-arm spinner Harpreet Brar, but he left the job to a man in the T20 form of his life. Dhawan might not be brightest star while Shaw is around, but what a side won’t do to have a second fiddle who is averaging xx and striking at xx per 100 balls.
The start gave Dhawan and Steven Smith some breathing space as they added just 34 in the first five overs of their partnership. Dhawan, though, settled any nerves in the dugout by unleashing his slog sweep against Bishnoi. It didn’t matter which way Bishnoi turned it; Dhawan took 25 off the 12th and 14th overs, making it 41 required off the last six even though he lost Smith in between.
If there was any doubt this was a done deal, Shimron Hetmyer removed it with two sixes and a four to end it in the 18th over.
Sidharth Monga is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo