David Warner seemed to be smiling the entire time. At the toss when he helped out Delhi Capitals skipper Shreyas Iyer, who was struggling to remember the name of a change to his playing eleven. On the field, wearing a wry grin as the Capitals openers smashed his usually reliable frontline bowlers to all parts of the ground in the Powerplay. At the end of the first innings to applaud the bowlers after another display of exquisite death bowling. Back in the hut, helpless, watching the rest of the chase after falling early to a deadly Kagiso Rabada yorker. Witnessing a potentially match turning partnership between the unflappable Kane Williamson and an adventurous Abdul Samad. Finally at the post match interview as he expressed his love for the city and his pride in his teammates.
For the most part, he was smiling. Ironically or genuinely, no matter. But he was smiling. Because sometimes that’s all you can do.
SRH road to the Qualifier
The Sunrisers did extremely well in the latter stages of the tournament to even get to this point. To fight for a place in the final. They were all but eliminated after a disastrous choke against Kings XI Punjab where they failed to chase a meager 127 runs. But then three successive victories, all with huge margins, meant they were still able to qualify for the playoffs. They carried the momentum into the first eliminator against Royal Challengers Bangalore, restricting a batting powerhouse to an under-par total and chasing it down in relatively straightforward fashion.
Marcus Stoinis, man for all seasons
But against Delhi, the magic could not be recreated. The DC think tank pulled off a masterstroke by promoting Marcus Stoinis to open the innings. Shikhar Dhawan, the lone batting warrior in many a game for DC, was in need of a dependable opening partner who could score at a high rate. Prithvi Shaw’s form had plummeted drastically. Ajinkya Rahane, barring one half-century, had largely disappointed. Stoinis wasted little time before launching into a full scale attack, flicking Sandeep Sharma and pulling Jason Holder over the on-side. As an opener, he averages over 50 in the Big Bash league. This whole season for Delhi, he has made his case to be recognized as a genuine allrounder and match-winner. Today, he proved his mettle by denying the Sunrisers bowling attack any success in the Powerplay and setting the tone for his team with a blistering start, with both bat and ball in hand.
The bowlers’ last stand
One reason behind captain Warner’s smile was the way in which the DC innings concluded. When at one point the Delhi batsmen threatened to post a total in excess of 200, the Hyderabad bowlers re-asserted themselves to have the final say. Sandeep Sharma came back to pick Dhawan’s wicket, who didn’t bother to review a poor LBW decision, and nailed a few yorkers of his own before T Natarajan bowled a full over of inch-perfect yorkers. Natarajan capped off an incredible and hopefully career-changing season with a beautiful yorker at 138.4 kph with a delicious hint of reverse swing, which the batsman could not get bat on even if time itself had slowed to a halt. The two Indian seamers conceded just 13 runs in the last two overs and pulled things back admirably for their side.
Kane and Abdul not enough
Warner had a rare second straight failure and departed for 2. Priyam Garg, still a teenager, could not take advantage of his opportunity to open. He fell after a getting a quick start to an unforced error against a Stoinis half-volley. Stoinis got Manish Pandey too, who mistimed a loft over mid-on right to mid-on. Jason Holder perished after somewhat of a struggle and in a heave of desperation.
But Kane Williamson once again held together the SRH innings impeccably. Measured, to a fault at first, Williamson in due time launched into a near flawless counterattack. He couldn’t get his team over the line, but while he was there the chase was not only on but a joy to watch. That six over midwicket against Rabada, after playing three straight dot balls, was a thing to behold. Young Abdul Samad played a blinder of an innings to give SRH a glimmer of a hope but holed out to a rampaging Rabada, who picked up two more wickets in the same over to give Delhi the match. Warner was smiling, even giddy, when Samad was batting.
It was their “attitude in the field” which let SRH down, Warner claimed after the match. No doubt about that. Misfields going for boundaries, sitters being dropped, unnecessary overthrows, loose fielding in general. The Delhi Capitals capitalized on these mistakes to secure their first ever appearance in the IPL final.
The usually impressive Shabhaz Nadeem had a nightmarish day at the office, his left-arm spin negated by Dhawan’s powerful slog sweeps. In the 13th over, Iyer drove him down the gap between long-on and deep midwicket. Two fielders from either end ran over to stop the boundary. Both waited till the last minute to dive, neither ended up diving, and the ball went for four.
What can one do but smile?