Delhi Capitals 159 for 4 (Shaw 53, Pant 37, Kaul 2-31) tied with Sunrisers Hyderabad 159 for 7 (Williamson 66*, Bairstow 38, Avesh 3-34) Delhi Capitals win the one-over eliminator
Kane Williamson once again masked the Sunrisers' lack of middle-order firepower and took them as far as the Super Over. But that final hurdle just proved too much.
The Delhi Capitals' Axar Patel, only recently recovered from Covid-19, was chosen ahead of Kagiso Rabada, the Super Over expert, to bowl in the most intense conditions, and through artful changes of pace and vicious use of angles to cramp the batters, he restricted Sunrisers to seven. It could have been eight but the third umpire spotted a very tight short run by David Warner.
People will debate the choice not to send Jonny Bairstow, who struck at 211 on the night, for the Super Over. But that will end up in the footnote of this engrossing game as Rishabh Pant persevered against Rashid Khan, reverse swatting him for a boundary to bring his team and his pandemic-hobbled city a tiny bit of joy deep into extra time.
Shaw goes berserk
The pitches in Chennai are best to bat on right at the start of the game. Then it starts to wear, with every single ball. Eventually run-scoring becomes a serious hassle.
So Prithvi Shaw decided to take advantage of his position as opener. He took strike and promptly hit the first three balls to the boundary. His best shot though was an imperious cover drive for six off Siddarth Kaul in the third over.
The camera panned to Pant just then. He was sitting in the dugout, his chin resting on his hand, very quiet, almost contemplative. He was the next batter in, so perhaps he was focused on getting into his zone. Even so, that shot was so good it broke through the captain's zen and made him nod in appreciation.
Sunrisers vs Pant
The Capitals marched to 51 for 0 in the first six overs. Now with the field spreading and the spinners coming on, hitting through the line became almost impossible. Even the half-centurion Shaw, who cruised to 39 off 23 in the powerplay, could make only 14 off his next 16 balls before getting run-out.
The Sunrisers placed all their faith in taking pace off the ball. But as well as they did that, they weren't making too many inroads. Chances came in the 16th and 17th overs when Pant and Steven Smith offered catches to short fine leg (Khaleel Ahmed) and short third man (Siddarth Kaul) but neither were accepted.
Warner was hunched over by this point. His bowlers were doing everything right. His fielders were doing everything wrong. And because of that a power-hitting genius was still at the crease.
Pant made 37 off 27 balls. He hit slower deliveries for six. He reverse-scooped fast bowlers for four. He toyed with Rashid, whacking the legspinner for 15 off eight balls. His 58-run partnership with Smith helped take Capitals to a very reasonable 159 for 4.
Bairstow and Williamson step up
Put the ball in a spinner's hand - spinners of the quality of R Ashwin and Amit Mishra - and it was spitting and bouncing and ripping and dipping.
Bairstow somehow put all that to the back of his mind - and better yet, he made the spinners put them in the back of theirs too. Worried by his power against tossed up deliveries, they all went fast and flat at him and he still punished them. The Sunrisers opener made 38 off 18 balls. He could have been gone for 1 had Shimron Hetmyer not misjudged a tough catch on the midwicket boundary.
Williamson has a subtler approach. He knows he can't blast an opposition out but he can bring them to submission, slowly and methodically. And he did that here. Williamson swept and reverse-swept the Capitals spinners, always mindful that his wrists came down on top of the ball to prevent the top edge. He made the most of the little flaws in the field; when Kagiso Rabada ran in with mid-off up, Williamson charged out and lofted the ball over that fielder. He knew the value of taking this chase deep and so he used the crease, worked the angles and ran like a demon between the wickets.
The surprise cameo
Despite all of this, Sunrisers still needed 50 off the last 30 balls. How does a T20 team with no recognised finisher manage ten an over for that long?
Well, with some help from a very unlikely source. J Suchith came into the side because Bhuvneshwar Kumar pulled up sore. With the game going the other way, he struck Avesh Khan for two cracking fours in the 19th over and Kagiso Rabada for one towering six in the 20th to force a Super Over showdown.