Delhi Capitals 184 for 8 (Hetmyer 45, Stoinis 39, Archer 3-24) beat Rajasthan Royals 138 all out (Tewatia 38, Jaiswal 34, Rabada 3-35, Stoinis 2-17, Ashwin 2-22) by 46 runs
It turns out, you can defend a score of less than 200 in Sharjah in IPL 2020. Not just defend, but win comprehensively by 46 runs, as the Delhi Capitals did against the Rajasthan Royals on Friday after putting up 184 for 8. You need to have the bowling for it, and the batsmen should treat a T20 match for what it is: a chance to hit out even when you lose wickets because you have ten of them across 20 overs.
This was not the typical Sharjah pitch however, with the wear and tear of playing several matches perhaps beginning to tell. The ball gripped a bit from a length which made hitting through the line not as straightforward a proposition. The boundaries were still as small as ever, and though both sides suffered from their top orders not firing, the Capitals had the depth and intent to over come that. The Royals didn't.
The Royals did a lot of things right at the start of the match, from winning the toss and opting to chase, to giving a distinct pace tilt to their attack, to not letting any of the Capitals' top four get more than 25. Jofra Archer was supreme, taking 3 for 24 and giving up a mere three runs in the innings' last over. But the collective might of the Capitals bowling attack against a batting line-up that depends heavily on their top order to do the heavy lifting meant all that early good work was undone.
The Capitals kept pushing hard when batting, Marcus Stoinis and Shimron Hetmyer marshalled a series of punchy lower-order partnerships to carry the Capitals to a healthy total. The bowlers then showed why the Capitals are among the title favourites this year by tying down the Royals, who eventually limped to 138.
R Ashwin led the way, brought on in the third over and striking third ball to remove Jos Buttler. It wasn't at the non-striker's end this time though. This was a dismissal that would have pleased the traditionalists too, the ball dipping classically on the batsman and forcing a mis-hit to square leg, where Shikhar Dhawan pulled off a diving catch. The Royals never seemed to recover from that blow, as the innings meandered without momentum, while every Capitals bowler got at least one wicket.
Archer, Aaron, pace and run-outs
On a ground where batsmen have made merry, the Royals had come in with a clear bowling plan: to bowl fast and into the pitch, not putting anything near the batsmen. Archer bowled only two slower balls in his entire four overs, while the Royals also brought in Varun Aaron for his first game. According to ESPNcricinfo's length data, there were only five full balls in the entire powerplay.
While Archer accounted for openers Shikhar Dhawan and Prithvi Shaw, some poor judgement of singles meant Shreyas Iyer and Rishabh Pant were both run out. Iyer was too early out of the blocks when Pant pushed to short cover, and couldn't get back in time when Yashasvi Jaiswal collected and hit the non-striker's stumps direct. Pant himself had a strange run-out, having almost jogged three quarters of the way down when Stoinis had just tapped the ball to short midwicket, an easy run-out at the non-striker's end. With the Capitals at 79 for 4 in 9.2 overs, the Royals had a distinct chance.
Stoinis, Hetmyer lead revival
Stoinis' intent was best summed up the ball immediately after Pant was out. Rahul Tewatia, who had an excellent bowling day otherwise, floated one too full and Stoinis biffed it straight over long-on. He hit four sixes in his 30-ball 39, trusting his form and power to smash anything that was pitched up. Hetmyer got his eye in and then smashed the pacers around, particularly in the arc between wide long-on and wide long-off. He was out for 45 off 24 with three overs still remaining, but Axar Patel ensured the finish wouldn't be tame with a cameo of 17 off 8 as the Capitals got 97 in the last 10 overs despite having lost their top four inside the first half.
Ashwin gets Buttler - again
The Capitals had seen how the Royals had executed their bowling plans, and they had the pace in Kagiso Rabada and Anrich Nortje to replicate those plans. But they had also seen that the pitch was stopping, and they had the experience and even more impressive skills of Ashwin to call on. He was brought in the third over - Buttler stayed firmly inside his crease the one ball that he was at the non-striker's end for - and his wicket of Buttler deflated the chase.
The Royals opted to have Steven Smith at No. 3 to lend greater balance in the batting order perhaps, and while he did hit a couple of stunning boundaries, Jaiswal at the other end couldn't find either power or placement in his shots. Jaiswal looked like he was setting himself up to bat through the innings, but his innings never got to beyond a run a ball. That lack of momentum at the top meant the Royals were always chasing a steep asking rate, and with Smith caught by a diving Hetmyer at deep midwicket, that ask became tougher. Hetmyer had a good day in the field, with two excellent diving catches in the deep and three overall.
The Capitals' bowlers close in
After the top three, not a single batsman got into double figures save Tewatia, who was the lone batsman in the Royals line-up to successfully bat with sustained aggression. The Royals batsmen looked to target Stoinis but having not got runs off the others at anything near the required rate, that gamble didn't come off. Stoinis was one among several Capitals players who had a good day, capping his batting effort with the wickets of Sanju Samson and Jaiswal. Axar was used for a mere two overs, and he still ended up with a wicket in those, while Rabada did his customary cleaning up at the death, ending a day of comprehensive domination for the Capitals.