Seeking victory in desperation, Mahendra Singh Dhoni’s men could not have asked for a better result. If Delhi’s think-thank chose to rest Zaheer Khan, Quinton de Kock and Chris Morris and still expected to win, Rising Pune Supergiants was not complaining.
A victory for Pune appeared the most likely outcome once it was known at the toss that the host made four changes owing to a ‘bunch of niggles.’ Its pace attack looked thin and presented far too many spin options for make-shift skipper J. P. Duminy.
As it turned out, Delhi posted 162 for seven without ever looking like posting an imposing total. In reply, Pune covered the distance with seven wickets and five deliveries to spare.
Man of the Match Ajinkya Rahane put the finishing touches to remain unbeaten with 63. He was indeed the guiding light as he was part of three partnerships that kept Delhi at bay.
With debutant opener Usman Khawaja, Rahane raised 59 runs in 8.2 overs to lay a sound foundation. After Khawaja was stumped, Saurabh Tiwary joined a steady Rahane and their 45 run-stand further dented Delhi’s hopes.
Thereafter, Dhoni’s presence ensured that even the asking rate of just under 13 runs an over was never going to be threatening.
Dhoni’s two towering sixes brought the crowd to its feet before Billings took another tumbling catch to end the skipper’s entertaining knock.
Delhi’s investment in spin in this match did not bring the desired returns, though Imran Tahir proved most effective after Jayant Yadav kept the initial run-rate in check. The two pace options, Mohammed Shami and Carlos Brathwaite were expensive in varying degrees and Delhi never really looked like getting the wickets to stop Pune’s run-chase.
When Delhi batted, the combination appeared more fragile than usual. It lasted the quota of overs with Karun Nair, Sam Billings and Brathwaite scoring briskly but lacked longevity at the crease.
Duminy top-scored with a 32-ball 34 after Nair was fluent during his 23-ball 32 studded with five boundaries.
The momentum was carried forward by Sam Bilings, who hoisted two sixes in his quick 24. Brathwaite, as is his wont, hit three sixes during his eight-ball stay before Pawan Negi finally made his presence felt with a six and a four in his unbeaten 19.
But the inability to prevent partnerships on this day proved Delhi’s undoing.