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Match Analysis

Pant-emonium at the Wankhede!

Pant scored 63 of his 78 runs on the leg side even though more than half the balls he faced had pitched outside the off stump

Rishabh Pant goes over the off-side field, Mumbai Indians v Delhi Capitals, Indian Premier League 2019, Mumbai, March 24, 2019

Rishabh Pant goes over the off-side field  •  BCCI

Rishabh Pant usually doesn't need time to settle down when he walks out to bat. On his Test debut last year in England, he had smacked his second ball for a six - his first scoring shot in the format.
But on Sunday, against Mumbai Indians in Mumbai, he got off the mark only on the fifth ball he faced. It wasn't a pointer to how his innings would unfold. When Pant walked out to bat after the 13th over, Delhi Capitals' run rate was 8.61. By the time their innings ended, Pant had hit a swashbuckling 78 not out off 27 balls and Delhi's run rate had surged to 10.65.
What were his favourite shots?
In one word: unorthodox.
The shot Pant played on the sixth ball he faced was a sign of what would come if Mumbai weren't able to send him back early. Ben Cutting bowled a shortish medium-paced delivery around middle and leg stump, and Pant walked across the stumps to flick it - with ridiculous ease - off his pads with a whip of his wrists behind square.
It wasn't short enough, so it couldn't be pulled. It wasn't full at all, so it couldn't be driven off the pads. The length was somewhere in between, and so was Pant's shot. But it had the reflex adjustment Pant's arms manage in a fraction of a second before the ball comes on to the bat.
From there, he swatted the ball around with a barrage of powerful, unorthodox, and effortless shots that you often cannot plan for. After those first four dot balls against Hardik Pandya in the 14th over, Pant faced him again in the 16th. Instead of the length deliveries that worked against Pant earlier, this time Hardik tried a short ball and Pant smashed it for six over square leg. Hardik went back to bowling on length and Pant swung it right over mid-off. On the last ball, Hardik tried a short ball again but this one well outside off and Pant gave it the same treatment - smacked for six on the leg side with a lot of power. From 1 off five, he had raced to 31 off 12 in a matter of three overs.
Mumbai would have had plans for him but this was all happening too quickly.
Which bowlers did he target?
All of them. Pant didn't spare anyone, including Jasprit Bumrah.
That face-off happened in the 18th over. Bumrah had an intimidating record against Pant before Sunday but Rohit Sharma probably didn't want to take any chances with a depleted pace attack and saved two overs of Bumrah for the end.
Knowing Pant's strengths on the leg side, Bumrah started from around the wicket and had four fielders on leg - long-on, deep midwicket and long leg at the boundary, and a square leg at the edge of the 30-yard circle. Pant got strike on the third ball of the over and he must have expected a yorker. Bumrah pitched it up, not in the block hole, and Pant rocked back in the crease to effortlessly flick that for six behind square, not too far from the long-leg fielder. Two deliveries later, Bumrah angled in a delivery towards Pant's waist with no room whatsoever and the Delhi batsman came up with a mix of a jab and a swat that evaded square leg for four. A stunning, inexplicable shot to bring up a stunning 18-ball half-century.
Casually flicking and smashing the best death bowler in the world for six takes courage, but Pant was doing it with disdain.
Bumrah returned for the last over and he was welcomed with another six on the first ball. The delivery was around the off stump and it went where Pant wanted it to go - behind square on the leg side again. You will wonder why Bumrah didn't try any of his trademark yorkers against Pant because when he did land one accurately in the block hole - on the last ball of the innings - Pant had already hammered Bumrah for 18 runs off the seven balls he had faced.
Pant's strike rate against Bumrah - 257.14 - was the second lowest on the day against the bowlers he faced. Salam's read 380 (19 off five balls), Cutting's 375 (15 off four) and Mitchell McClenaghan's 300 (nine off three).
Which parts of the ground did Pant target?
The leg side, without doubt, particularly the area behind square. It was on display especially in the 19th over against IPL debutant Rasikh Salam, who had a long-on, deep midwicket and deep square leg in place on the leg side even though by now field placements had stopped making any difference and sense. Pant got a short delivery first up and he pulled it right over deep square leg's head. Salam followed it with a slower delivery well outside off, and Pant launched that one too on the leg side - straight over the long-on fielder with a one-handed swing.
By the end, Pant had scored 63 of his 78 runs (81%) on the leg side even though more than half the balls he faced had pitched outside off.

Vishal Dikshit is a senior sub-editor at ESPNcricinfo