Delhi Capitals 154 for 4 (Rahane 60, Dhawan 54, Ahmed 2-26) beat Royal Challengers Bangalore 152 for 7 (Padikkal 50, de Villiers 35, Nortje 3-33) by six wickets
Half-centuries from Ajinkya Rahane and Shikhar Dhawan ensured the Delhi Capitals finished second on the IPL 2020 points table as they beat the Royal Challengers Bangalore by six wickets in Abu Dhabi. They will now face the table toppers, the Mumbai Indians, in the first qualifier in Dubai on Thursday.
While they lost, the Royal Challengers also sealed a playoff spot by taking the game deep enough to ensure their net run rate stayed above that of the Kolkata Knight Riders, who are currently fourth.
After being put in, the Royal Challengers innings never really hit the top gear despite Devdutt Padikkal's half-century and AB de Villiers' 35 off 21 balls towards the end. Whenever the Royal Challengers tried to break free, they were pegged back by a wicket or two. As a result, they could manage only 152 for 7. Anrich Nortje was the most successful bowler for the Capitals, picking up 3 for 33.
Defending 152, especially without Navdeep Saini who missed out because of his hand injury, was always going to be a tough ask. Once Dhawan and Rahane put the Capitals on the victory path, the next number the Royal Challengers had in mind was 17.3. They needed to stretch the game at least till 17.3 overs to ensure their net run rate stayed above the Kolkata Knight Riders'. Despite the dew, the Royal Challengers spinners - Shahbaz Ahmed, Washington Sundar and Yuzvendra Chahal - stepped up and made sure the Capitals reached their target only in 19 overs.
Rabada gets his first powerplay wicket in a quiet start
The Capitals bowlers did well to keep Padikkal and Josh Philippe quiet at the start. It's not that the two didn't show any intent; Philippe, in particular, played many a pull and drive but struggled with timing and placement. With just 25 on the board at the end of the fourth over, Philippe tried to loft Kagiso Rabada inside-out but failed to middle it. Prithvi Shaw back-tracked at cover to cling on to the chance, giving Rabada his first wicket in the powerplay this season.
Padikkal, though, didn't miss out whenever an opportunity presented itself, mostly in the form of a short and wide delivery outside off. He was quick to deploy drive, chip, cut or late cut to find the square boundary. But once the field was spread out, R Ashwin and Axar Patel varied their pace intelligently to strangle the Royal Challengers. Virat Kohli tried to take on Patel. Using his feet, Kohli tried to loft him over long-on but the ball hit the inner half of the bat. However, Nortje lost footing while taking the catch and the ball popped out of his hands.
Capitals thwart Royal Challengers' attempt to accelerate
With the Royal Challengers on 60 for 1 after ten overs, Kohli tried to cut loose. He started with driving Rabada over extra cover before clearing long-on against Patel. But his charge was cut short by someone who had never dismissed him in T20s before today. Ashwin got Kohli out for the first time in 20 innings as he failed to clear deep midwicket.
Padikkal too struggled after his initial burst. From being 21 off 14 balls at the end of the powerplay, he managed only 29 in the next 27 balls. He brought up his fifth half-century of the season - off 40 balls - but fell on the next ball to Nortje. The Royal Challengers promoted Chris Morris but he too departed in the same over. de Villiers and Shivam Dube got a few in their slot and added 33 in 18 balls to ensure the Royal Challengers crossed 150.
Dhawan gets Capitals off to quick start
After fetching two ducks in his last two innings, Dhawan was welcomed with a low full toss from Morris, which the batsman dispatched through covers. Two balls later, Morris overpitched again and Dhawan drove it through covers. In the next over, Shaw too hit Mohammad Siraj for a couple of fours before the bowler straightened one off the seam to beat the outside edge to hit the off stump.
The wicket didn't deter Dhawan who kept finding boundaries from the other end. After a slow start, Rahane too hit his stride and the two took the side to 53 for 1 at the end of the powerplay.
Kohli brought on the spinners to stem the flow of runs. While there was little turn on offer, the move worked as the Capitals managed only two fours from overs 7 to 11. Still, both Dhawan and Rahane brought up their fifties in 37 balls to keep the Capitals ahead of the asking rate.
Spinners save the day for Royal Challengers
With their 88-run stand for the second wicket, Dhawan and Rahane had brought down the equation to 46 required from 45 balls when the former lapped Ahmed to short fine leg. Two overs later, Shreyas Iyer too holed out against Ahmed, while Sundar got Rahane on the second ball of the 18th over. After Dhawan's dismissal in the 13th over, the Capitals failed to hit a single boundary until the 19th as Ahmed, Sundar and Chahal combined to concede only 79 in 12 overs while picking up three wickets. That enabled the Royal Challengers to sneak into the playoffs even though they couldn't stop the Capitals' victory march.
Hemant Brar is a sub-editor at ESPNcricinfo