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Veterans Ishant and Warner give Delhi Capitals much-needed relief

Ishant was the Player of the Match in his first IPL game since 2019, while Warner returned to his aggressive approach

Shashank Kishore
Shashank Kishore
Ishant Sharma and David Warner are prolific international stars at different stages of their careers.
A veteran of 105 Tests, Ishant is no longer an India regular at the age of 34, but believes he's got more miles in him. Warner has to deal with plenty of talk around his Test future as he strives to resurrect Delhi Capitals this season.
On Thursday night, the veterans combined to deliver the season's first win for their team. On a Delhi pitch that Warner said had become "sticky" due to rain in the lead-up to the game, Ishant made an impact almost immediately after his captain chose to bowl.
Since the start of 2014, Ishant had played five or more games a season just twice: six wicketless matches in IPL 2017, and 13 games in 2019 where he took 13 wickets. So when he hobbled off holding his side during his only domestic appearance for Delhi last December, a comeback seemed far fetched.
He wasn't in demand at this year's auction either and was bought by the Capitals towards the end at his base price. And it was only because their pace stocks were depleted with an injury to Khaleel Ahmed, and that they needed to strengthen their batting with another overseas player, that Capitals picked Ishant against Kolkata Knight Riders.
Figures of 4-0-19-2 point to a job well done. Fingers perfectly behind the seam and wrists snapping at release to get late inswing, Ishant looked in fine rhythm, getting deliveries to rear up awkwardly from a length.
Nitish Rana had thought Ishant's length was short enough to pull, but the skid off the pitch made his bat turn and lob a catch to mid-on. By the 12th over of the innings, Ishant was bowling his fourth and final over, and he had Sunil Narine caught off a short ball at deep midwicket. And that was that for Ishant. He was subbed out after his spell and Prithvi Shaw came in as the Capitals' Impact Player.
"He [Ishant] was going to play the last game, but was sick, he had fever," Warner said after the game. "After the first game here [against Gujarat Titans] where the ball swung and seamed, he was in contention to play. Khaleel Ahmed is a good new-ball bowler, but with him out, Ishant came in and bowled exceptionally well. We have to have a good hard think about selection when he's [Khaleel] fit again. Full credit to Ishant to come out of his sickness and execute his skill."
Once Ishant was done, it was Warner's turn, and this time he started quickly, jabbing and punching length deliveries, quickly swivelling back to pull. Perhaps the small target of 128 helped him break free of the shackles he appeared to have brought upon himself this season.
Warner was particularly severe on Narine, in a mood to throw him off his lengths and not allow him to settle. He raced to 45 off 25 by the end of the powerplay and brought up his half-century off 33 balls.
It wasn't a return to form for Warner. He had made 228 runs already in five innings this season. But it was a definite return to his aggressive approach. There were signs of it during the chase against RCB in Bengaluru five nights ago, when he thumped Mohammed Siraj for a hat-trick of fours. His belligerence was back, until he toe-ended a pull to mid-on on 19, and Thursday's innings against KKR seemed a continuance of that.
"We didn't lose three wickets in a row [here]," Warner said. "There will be critics out there who suggest that I haven't batted the way I normally bat, but when you lose three wickets in a row in two overs and I faced three balls, what can you do? You have to have some sense of responsibility.
"Look at [the game against] Bangalore - I get out and people would've criticised me getting out [looking to attack], but that's the game. For us, it's about backing yourself, coming out and executing your skills. Today, I felt like my match-ups were there and I'd take the powerplay on.
"We didn't lose wickets in clumps in the first two overs. That plays a big role. I felt I had my rhythm back again. I had a good couple of net sessions. I felt a little tentative [about] losing wickets in the first couple of games. For me, going out there and playing the way I do, the way I know, is going to be better off for our team."
After five successive defeats, the Capitals have finally won their first points, and up next in Warner's path is his former team Sunrisers Hyderabad. For Ishant, it's about recovery and getting ready to try and put in another Player of the Match performance.

Shashank Kishore is a senior sub-editor at ESPNcricinfo