Dubai: Rishabh Pant showed no signs of his self-confessed “nervousness” as his unbeaten 51 off 35 balls propelled Delhi Capitals to a competitive score of 172/5 against Chennai Super Kings in the first Qualifier of Indian Premier League here on Sunday.
Pant got an ideal support from his buddy Shimron Hetmyer (37 off 24 balls) as the duo added 83 runs for the fifth wicket with some breathtaking shots towards the end of the innings.
Pant hit three fours and two sixes as Delhi Capitals didn’t ultimately pay the price for playing a specialist batter short as they capitalised on a blazing start provided by opener Prithvi Shaw (60 off 34 balls), who took the opposition on with seven fours and three sixes.
Coming together at 80 for 4, Hetmyer and Pant initially just nudged around for a few singles and doubles before the flamboyant Caribbean pulled a short one from Moeen Ali for a six. He then bisected the off-side field off Dwayne Bravo for a boundary.
Pant, who was being kept quiet by the spinners, finally showed some spark with his trademark one-handed six off Shardul Thakur.
Once they had put on a half-century partnership, Pant and Hetmyer did start throwing their bats around at the back-end when the pacers once again were back in operation.
If Hetmyer thumped Josh Hazlewood (4-0-29-2) over his head, Pant whipped him towards deep mid-wicket to bring up the 150 for the team. He then hit Dwayne Bravo (1/31 in 3 overs) over his head for a second six.
But a lot of credit should go to Shaw as he played his best knock of the tournament.
He started with a pulled four and a six off Hazlewood, funnily both mis-timed shots. The first flew over slips and the next one was top-edged behind wicketkeeper with enough wood on the leather to go the distance.
However Deepak Chahar’s second over turned out to be a nightmare for the seamer as he was smashed for four boundaries — first a streaky inside edge followed by two square cuts on either side of a flick.
While Shikhar Dhawan (7) and Shreyas Iyer (1) were dismissed by Hazlewood within the Powerplay, Axar Patel (10) was promoted without much success.
Shaw, however, continued with his ‘see-the-ball, hit-the-ball’ formula as he lofted Shardul Thakur for two sixes.
As he reached his fifty off only 27 balls, he was piercing the off-side field regularly even as Axar perished failing to get the desired distance while trying to loft Moeen Ali.
The seasoned pair of Moeen Ali (1/27 in 4 overs) and Ravindra Jadeja (1/23 in 3 overs) suddenly stifled the runs post Powerplay with some measured bowling which led to Shaw trying to loft the left-arm spinner inside-out. However Faf du Plessis ran sideways to take a well-judged catch at deep extra cover boundary.
Then, Pant and Hetmyer took charge of DC’s batting to post a safe total.