In IPL, sixes are as much about the runs as they are about the distance. The longest hits even find a place in the statistics. Sharjah being the most batsmen-friendly of the three venues in the UAE, those big hits are the way to go.
Batsmen have been the heroes in Sharjah since it became an international venue in the 1980s. This time, with fans shut out, a few have waited by the roadside outside all venues waiting for a white-ball souvenir.
On Saturday, Ravindra Jadeja obliged one spectator, smashing Capitals pacer Tushar Deshpande to the road. The man slipped while collecting it, but there was little traffic and he scampered to safety.
In an unprecedented, pandemic-hit season, athletes have learnt to appreciate the little things that lets them to get a game. Unwittingly turning top-quality white balls into gifts is one of them.
Teams batting first were 5-2 up in Sharjah ahead of the game and Delhi Capitals bowlers felt the pressure as CSK’s seasoned batsmen posted a solid 179/4. DC though made it 2-0 for the season. They found their man in Shikhar Dhawan and unexpected dew that made batting a touch easier as the ball came on to the bat.
For an opener and regular fixture in IPL since the first season in 2008, and with 40 half-centuries, Dhawan had not ticked one column—century—in his T20 career. His best had been a match-winning 97*. On Saturday, the man in sizzling form played shots all around. CSK though kept dropping him and paid the penalty. Chahar’s let-off on 25 and Rayudu’s drop were the most glaring.
Credit to Dhawan he stayed focused. He didn’t pack the power as CSK batsmen did, but his patent aggression never flagged as he carried the Capitals to victory. Once set, he used his feet against spinners, who have inferior numbers compared to pacers at Sharjah. The left-hander manipulated the pacers too and his fitness stood out. Dhawan had anxiety on 99 as he got a caught behind decision reversed.
But it was all good in the end. He got his century, and with 17 to get in the final over, MS Dhoni surprisingly brought on Jadeja and Axar Patel stunned CSK by hitting 6,6,2,6 to seal it with a ball to spare (185/5). The win kept DC on top of the points table.
This season has seen MS Dhoni slow down as a batsman, but the seasoned players the CSK skipper has backed vindicated that faith. Young Sam Curran fell third ball, but Faf du Plessis (58-47b, 6×4,2×6) and Shane Watson (36 off 27 b) raised an 87-run partnership. Their experience stood out. They waited as deliveries came off the pitch slow before executing their shots. Du Plessis played the scoop to upset the rhythm of the bowlers on way to his fourth fifty of the season.
Ambati Rayudu (45*-25b, 1×4, 4×6) and Jadeja (33* – 13b, 4×6) pretty much kept to that template in their racy partnership though the pitch got slower.
Capitals opener Prithvi Shaw, man-of-match in the earlier win over CSK, fell to Deepak Chahar, who swung the ball in a superb four-over spell (2/18) that also saw Ajinkya Rahane caught in the deep. Capitals skipper Shreyas Iyer (23) recovered from a shoulder injury from the previous game, and a painful knock on his knee on coming into bat to help Dhawan lead the counterattack in their 68-run partnership.
Dhoni rotated his bowlers well with Sam Curran bowling a superb 19th over that netted a wicket, conceding four runs only for the last gamble in Jadeja to backfire.