Not very often has this IPL witnessed a match where the fast bowling on display has overshadowed the big hits. Wednesday night in Dubai changed that for good, and unexpectedly so, for the wicket was slow and low enough for Delhi’s Shreyas Iyer to choose to bat. Rajasthan captain Steve Smith admitted he too would’ve done the same because the Dubai wicket looked very dry, but Jofra Archer would prove why that factor doesn’t make a difference to his pace.
First ball of the game, released at 144 kph, Archer got through Prithvi Shaw’s defence and rearranged his stumps. Delhi Capitals recovered from the setback, managing a middling total of 161/7 in 20 overs thanks to fifties from Shikhar Dhawan and captain Shreyas Iyer. But Archer conceded just 19 of those runs in his four overs, simultaneously scalping three of those wickets.
Archer’s second over was even faster than his first. One of those balls, well above 150kph, had a desperate Ajinkya Rahane caught at mid on. He would eventually end his quota of overs just the way he had started it, with a wicket (Marcus Stoinis), but he excelled with his dot balls as well. No one had bowled more dots than Archer before this match, and he added to his reputation with 14 scoreless balls on Wednesday.
Only one bowler has taken more wickets than Archer’s 12 in this IPL. Delhi’s Kagiso Rabada had 17 wickets before the match, and the defence of a low total was going to hinge on the South African quick’s performance. It didn’t start very well as Rajasthan’s openers, World Cup winners Ben Stokes and Jos Buttler, smacked Rabada for a boundary each in his first over.
Rabada’s compatriot Anrich Nortje broke that stand with the stumps of Buttler just when it was starting to look dangerous. And this Nortje did with a delivery bowled at 156.3kph, possibly the fastest in any IPL. That was in the beginning but Nortje’s pace, or aim, hadn’t slacked by the end either. In the 18th over, he bowled Robin Uthappa with a 150kph ball.
Rabada was still wicketless when he returned for his final over, the 19th, with RR needing 25 runs from 12 balls. After having conceded 25 runs from his first three, Rabada gave away just three runs while picking up the wicket of Archer to put Delhi on the brink of victory. That win was wrapped up by debutant pacer Tushar Deshpande, who held his nerve and the night’s storyline.