Delhi Capitals 157 for 8 (Stoinis 53, Iyer 39, Pant 31, Shami 3-15, Cottrell 2-24) beat Kings XI Punjab 157 for 8 (Agarwal 89, Ashwin 2-2, Rabada 2-28, Stoinis 2-29) via the Super Over
Seam movement and bounce with the new ball. A 20-ball half-century that came out of nowhere. A two-wicket over ending with a nasty-looking injury. A slow-burning, calculated rescue act that all but aced a tricky chase. A short run that wasn't. Then, with one run required from three balls, somehow, Marcus Stoinis, who had also been the Capitals' gamechanger with the bat, produced a dot and two wickets.
The second match of IPL 2020 contained pretty much everything, until an anticlimactic Super Over handed two points to the Delhi Capitals and heartbreak to the Kings XI Punjab, particularly to Mayank Agarwal whose 89 off 60 balls had rescued them from an abject 55 for 5 in their chase of 158.
Just as he was against the Kolkata Knight Riders last season, Kagiso Rabada was the Capitals' Super Over hero. He took out KL Rahul with a well-directed bouncer, which followed the batsman's premeditated movement towards the leg side, and bowled Nicholas Pooran next ball. Pooran's slog across the line wouldn't have been cause for too much censure in the regular part of a T20 game, but it was an unwise shot off the third ball of a Super Over, in which teams are only allowed two wickets.
That left the Capitals just three runs to get, and they completed the job with no additions to the day's quota of twists and turns.
A fast bowlers' pitch
With only three venues hosting this tournament, the pitches will, at some point, slow down and offer plenty of assistance to the spinners. For now, though, they're keeping the fast bowlers interested. Saturday's surface in Abu Dhabi had a healthy covering of grass. Today's pitch in Dubai was well-grassed too, and offered seam movement and plenty of bounce. Both teams filled two of their overseas slots with fast bowlers.
It was an Indian quick, however, who made the most of the early help. Delivering with his trademark upright seam, Mohammed Shami nipped the ball around, got it to spring off the pitch, and sent back Prithvi Shaw and Shimron Hetmyer in his second over. He had two catches dropped in his first over too, but one of them - Rahul putting Shikhar Dhawan down off a gloved hook - turned into a run-out.
A recovery, and an eye-catching debut
From 13 for 3 at the four-over mark, there was a bit of rebuilding to be done for the Capitals. Shreyas Iyer and Rishabh Pant ensured they wouldn't lose another wicket for another 10 overs, but the Capitals' run rate remained in check. Staying below 6 an over even at the 12-over mark.
One of the main reasons for this was the performance of Ravi Bishnoi, the 20-year-old legspinner, who performed the difficult act of keeping Pant quiet despite being the left-hander's obvious target to go after. He did this by slanting the ball across Pant from over the wicket, and almost exclusively bowling sliders and wrong 'uns that veered away from his hitting arc. He exhibited impressive control over his lengths as well, and only conceded 13 runs to Pant off 12 balls, ending their skirmish by bowling him off the inside edge.
Iyer had a better time against his designated target, hitting the offspinner K Gowtham for three towering sixes. Ever since his India return late last year, Iyer has shown he's become a ruthless hitter against spin, and this ability should come in handy for the Capitals right through this season.
Stoinis goes berserk
Just when Iyer was looking dangerous, Shami returned to the attack in the 15th over and dismissed him with a well-disguised knuckle ball. There were no boundaries in that over, or the next one from Bishnoi, or the one after that from Sheldon Cottrell. After 17 overs, the Capitals were 100 for 6 and looking at a total in the region of 130.
They ended up with 158, thanks to one of the most remarkable slog-overs efforts the IPL has ever seen. The bowling wasn't great - Chris Jordan and Cottrell didn't vary their pace all that much, and kept missing their length while going for yorkers, both wide and straight - but Stoinis' hitting was magnificent. He took guard on off stump to get closer to the line if the bowlers went wide, and that also allowed him to put away straighter deliveries behind square on the leg side. From there, it was all still head and stable base, and the last three overs brought the Capitals 13, 14, and an eye-watering 30 runs respectively.
Stoinis ransacked 49 runs in the last three overs of the Capitals' innings. Only Virat Kohli and Andre Russell have scored more in that part of an IPL innings.
Ashwin's two-way impact
Just as in the first innings, the new ball did a bit in the second too. Kings XI expected this, and also had a not-particularly-steep target to chase, so their top order played out this phase with a little more caution than Shaw and Hetmyer in particular had done for the Capitals. Rahul muscled a Mohit Sharma free-hit for a monstrous leg-side six but was otherwise circumspect until he was bowled by an inducker from Sharma in the fifth over. Agarwal was even more circumspect: he was on 4 off 10 at the end of the fifth over.
Ashwin came on for the sixth over, and took a wicket with his first ever ball for the Capitals, against the team he captained last season; Karun Nair was the victim, falling to a top-edged sweep. Four balls later, Ashwin burst through Pooran's defences with an arm ball from around the wicket. Kings XI were 34 for 3, and were looking at negotiating 19 more balls from Ashwin, but in an attempt to dive and save a single down the ground, he damaged his left shoulder and left the field in what appeared to be intense pain.
Glenn Maxwell fell in the next over, miscuing Rabada to mid-off, but Kings XI had a bit of a lifeline. With Ashwin unable to bowl any further, targets could be found among the other five bowlers.
Agarwal comes agonisingly close
When Kings XI lost Sarfaraz Khan at the end of the 10th over, they needed 103 from their last 60 balls with only five wickets in hand. Agarwal at that point was batting on 13 off 20.
The boundaries began to arrive for him, but still in small, measured doses: a pulled six off Stoinis in the 11th over, two fast-hands slashes square on the off side off Anrich Nortje in the 13th. Amidst all this, the left-arm spinner Axar Patel kept him and Gowtham quiet, finding a bit of in-drift and getting the ball to skid towards the stumps.
With 74 needed off 36, Gowtham went after Sharma, picking his slower delivery and launching it over the long-on boundary before flat-batting a short one over mid-off for four. He fell in the next over, off Rabada, but Agarwal kept Kings XI in touch with the required rate with two more fours off Nortje in the 17th.
If Ashwin had been able to bowl, Sharma may not have had to finish his quota. As it happened, Sharma bowled the 18th and conceded two sixes to Agarwal, who was by now picking his spot and finding it ruthlessly, even if it meant carving full balls over point. Then, in the 19th over, Agarwal got the bit of luck that his innings deserved, Iyer putting down a chance running to his left from deep midwicket and giving away another four.
Twelve came off that Rabada over - it could have been 13 but for a tight but erroneous call of short run when Jordan turned for a second run - leaving the Capitals' sixth bowler, Stoinis, to defend 12 off the last over. Agarwal smacked the first ball for six, high over long-off, and seemed to have the match all sewn up two balls later with a drive that beat long-off to his left.
That left one to get off three balls. A dot ball followed as Agarwal slashed at and missed a bouncer outside off. Stoinis brought all but one of his fielders into the 30-yard circle, and bowled a wide full-toss. Did he mean to? Who knows, but Agarwal picked out deep point, the only fielder on the boundary.
Then, with one to get off the last ball, Jordan flicked powerfully, but just within range of Rabada, who moved a step to his right at square leg to pull off a terrific reflex catch. There was no logical reason for the Capitals to still be alive in this match, but logic was taking a day off.