Even by T20 standards, 185 can rarely be called a below-par target. But such has been the reputation of the Sharjah Cricket Stadium in the IPL 2020, that when Delhi Capitals (DC) set that total for Rajasthan Royals (RR) to chase on Friday, it looked like it would be easy.
Here was a ground where RR had made the highest-ever chase in IPL history (224) a little less than a fortnight ago against Kings XI Punjab. Against DC on Friday, they made a mess of things and lost by 46 runs.
DC assistant-coach Mohammed Kaif had mentioned a few days back about the impact of the Covid-19 induced break on the fielding standards and how it would improve as IPL progressed. His words proved almost prophetic.
First was a dive by Shikhar Dhawan at square-leg as Jos Buttler attempted to go big over mid-wicket against Ashwin. The ball dipped as Buttler mistimed, but it was the blinder by Dhwan that did the magic. RR had lost their first wicket in the third over with only 15 on board.
The second stunning effort came from Shimron Hetmyer. With Anrich Nortje pitching the ball up, RR captain Steve Smith hoicked one over mid-wicket, but the West Indian showed athleticism to dive forward to send the Australian back. RR were 56/2 inside nine overs. Later, Hetmyer maintained composure under floodlights to take another lofted shot at long-on by Sanju Samson, off Stoinis.
Now, RR do not boast of batting depth like DC. Take Buttler, Smith and Samson out and they are bound to struggle. With the trio gone, the DC bowlers choked the run flow as RR crumbled.
Hetmyer was not done yet with his fielding heroics. He again took a stunning diving catch to his left in the deep to send back Shreyas Gopal off Harshal Patel in the 18th over.
With this result, RR have lost their fourth straight game while DC are on top of the table.