Winning the toss, Pune’s stand-in captain Ajinkya Rahane elected to field first, a move that backfired. Although they started well, picking up an early wicket, Sanju Samson almost single-handedly took the game away from the home side’s grasp.
Samson scored his first century in the IPL in only 62 balls to help Delhi post a competitive total. However, it was Chris Morris’ late onslaught that helped them cross the 200 mark. None of the Pune bowlers, other than Imran Tahir, managed to contain the flow of runs.
A target of 206 was always going to be difficult. But Pune never really looked like they could manage the uphill task, especially with their top five batsmen being sent back to the pavilion within the first eight overs. They still had hope with MS Dhoni at the crease but the former Indian batsman got out trying to hit Amit Mishra.
Thereafter, it was all downhill for Pune. Here are the five talking points from last night’s game.
#1 Sanju Samson final comes of age
In Delhi’s last game against Royal Challengers Bangalore, it was the young Rishabh Pant who batted exceptionally well. Today, however, it was Kerala’s wicket-keeper batsman Sanju Samson who set the stage ablaze. He looked in exquisite touch throughout the innings as he toyed with an insipid bowling attack and went on to become the second youngest batsman to score a hundred in the IPL.
The 23-year-old is not a new name in the Indian domestic circuit. His exploits first came to the forefront when he impressed for Rajasthan Royals in IPL 2013 and was adjudged the Best Young Player of the Season. However, despite performing on a consistent basis, until now, he had not been able to hog the limelight completely.
During today’s innings, he hit eight boundaries and five sixes. He reached his 100 with a six straight down the ground and as he celebrated, it seemed that he had finally come of age. Looking back, it was his innings that laid the groundwork for Pune’s win.
#2 Chris Morris’ blitzkrieg helps Delhi cross 200
If it was Samson’s brilliantly essayed innings that hogged the limelight, it was all-rounder Chris Morris’s stunning cameo that knocked the wind out of Pune’s sails. When Samson was dismissed, Delhi’s score read 160-odd and they were still a long way off a daunting total.
But the South African went completely berserk. He faced just nine balls but made an absolute mockery of the Pune bowling during his brief innings as he hit four boundaries and three sixes. He finished off Delhi’s innings in style with two sixes off the last two balls and took the total above 200.
Morris, of course, had shown he was capable of this during last year’s IPL when he scored 82 off only 32 balls against the Gujarat Lions. But today’s show was something special as he finished unbeaten on 38 with a strike rate of 422.22. Indeed, this is the reason why Morris is an integral part of the Delhi side.
#3 Imran Tahir continues to impress
Imran Tahir, who played for Delhi last season but was not retained, was out to prove a point. Indeed he had been neglected during the auctions and was only included as a replacement for an injured player. He might be the top bowler in limited overs international cricket, but not many reckoned he would be any good in the IPL.
Nevertheless, he has proved all the critics and pundits wrong. Since the start of this year’s IPL, he has been right on the money. He picked up three wickets against Mumbai and two against Bangalore. Today, he was the only bowler who troubled the Pune batsmen.
Keeping a lid on things, Tahir managed to eliminate the boundaries during the middle overs and pick up the crucial wicket of a dangerous looking Sam Billings. It wasn’t until the final over that he finally conceded a six when Samson hit him over mid-wicket. Still, the leg-spinner returned figures of 4-0-24-1 and was the pick of the Pune bowlers.
#4 Pune’s death bowling woes continue
Delhi got off to a good start in the powerplay but Tahir managed to check the run-flow in the middle overs and it looked like the visitors would not be able to set a very difficult target for Rahane and co. However, Morris’ late blitzkrieg helped them score as many as 44 runs in the last two overs and take the game away.
As much as it was for Morris’ exceptional batting that helped Delhi put on 205, it was Pune’s woeful death bowling that aided Delhi’s cause. Ashok Dinda, who was battered by Hardik Pandya last week, appeared to have learnt nothing from his mistakes.
The Bengal bowler, bowling the 18th over, struggled with his length as he conceded 19 runs. Ben Stokes, as well, failed to hit the proper areas and was put away with ease by Morris. Clearly, this is an area which Pune need to work on if they really want to give a good account of themselves in the tournament.
#5 Pune’s lack of batting depth is exposed
Pune’s batting is over-reliant on Steve Smith and Ajinkya Rahane. In the only match that Pune have won so far, the two played magnificently and managed to paper over the cracks but the more the tournament progresses the more these will get exposed.
Smith, who has been in the form of his life over the last year, missed out through illness and the onus was on Faf du Plessis and Ben Stokes to hold the middle order together. However, as the innings progressed it became evident that there was no depth in the batting.
As Rahane and Mayank Agarwal failed to get going, du Plessis and Stokes had to build a partnership. However, neither managed to reach double figures. MS Dhoni came in at the fall of the fourth wicket, but by then Pune had already lost the match. After that, it was only a matter of time before they were bundled out.