As Delhi Capitals edged closer to a top-two finish by defeating Mumbai Indians by four wickets in an IPL encounter in Sharjah on Saturday, Shreyas Iyer displayed a steely demeanour while Ravichandran Ashwin compensated for his poor bowling effort with a last six. DC struggled to chase down a modest 130 on a difficult Sharjah Stadium pitch, but Iyer anchored the batting with a run-a-ball 33 and added a critical unbroken 39-run stand with Ashwin (20 not out). With only four runs needed from the last over, Ashwin completed the chase with five balls to spare, hitting a six off Krunal Pandya as the duo had a match-defining 36-ball partnership.
With one more win, DC would clinch a top-two finish, as only twin defeats in the last two games, three large wins for RCB, and at least one victory from CSK will push them to third place.
With the current net run-rate scenario, that appears improbable. The five-time champions have now lost seven of their 12 matches this season, and their chances of making the play-offs are rapidly dwindling.
Mumbai made a strong start in defending the low total, sending Delhi’s top three batsmen — Shikhar Dhawan (8), Prithvi Shaw (6), and Steve Smith (9) — back to the hut inside the powerplay.
In the second over, Kieron Pollard’s direct drive from mid-on caught Shikhar Dhawan short of his crease, while Shaw was dismissed in the space of four balls thanks to a great review call.
Smith seemed in his zone and pulled Bumrah for a six, only to lose to Nathan Coulter-Nile of Australia.
With a ball that stayed low as he moved too much over, Coulter-Nile cleaned up Smith’s legs. With no strong partnerships in place, former captain Iyer demonstrated excellent patience by rotating the strike with brilliant singles.
Iyer, who was not under any run-rate pressure, kept on rotating the strikes as he hit only two boundaries in his run-a-ball innings.
Earlier in the day, Axar (3/21) dismissed Quinton De Kock (19), Suryakumar Yadav (33) and Saurabh Tiwary (15), ensuring that runs were hard to come by in the middle overs on a day when ace spinner Ravichandran Ashwin was utterly off his game.
However, it was their uncapped Indian pacer Avesh Khan (3/15), who extended his dream run in the IPL and set the stage for Capitals by hurriedly chasing down Rohit Sharma.
To further tighten the noose, Avesh reappeared at the death and dismissed the dangerous Hardik Pandya (17) and Nathan Coulter Nile (1) in three balls.
Anrich Nortje, the world’s quickest bowler, shared the new ball with Avesh and bowled 1/19 from four overs as DC bowlers got their length correct on a slow surface.
With the exception of Surya, none of the MI batters reached the 20-run mark. Avesh, a Madhya Pradesh native, had only given up seven runs in his first two overs with eight dot balls and had taken the prized scalp of MI skipper Rohit Sharma with his fifth ball of the day.
Although Avesh’s run-up was not particularly smooth, the effort ball he used to bounce Rohit out was exceptional, as India’s T20 captain-in-waiting was unable to connect with his pull-shot.
The 24-year-old, who is second (21) in the IPL’s best wickettakers list, has already taken three Indian superstars in this tournament: MS Dhoni, Virat Kohli, and now Rohit Sharma.
Surya swept the star Indian off-spinner for a six, while De Kock looked dangerous with a lap-shot over fine-leg against his compatriot Kagiso Rabada.
Rishabh Pant made a wise leadership decision by bringing in Axar straight after the power-play, and the Gujarati bowled De Kock out in his second over.
He took advantage of his height and was precise with his deliveries, making life difficult for the Mumbai batsmen.
Surya seemed to be back in form after a poor run of form, top-scoring for them with a 26-ball 33, but Patel outsmarted the Mumbai no 3 with a full toss.