Delhi Capitals reclaimed top spot in the IPL with a superb comeback win over Rajasthan Royals yesterday, in a game dominated by some fantastic fast bowling, at the Dubai International Cricket Stadium.
It started with the very first ball of the match as Jofra Archer produced a corker to peg back Prithvi Shaw’s middle stump. The England man also removed Ajinkya Rahane in his opening spell before impressing again at the death to end with figures of 3-19.
Delhi posted 161-7 thanks to half-centuries from Shikhar Dhawan (57 from 33 balls) and Shreyas Iyer (53 from 43) but that looked under serious threat when Jos Buttler and Ben Stokes got the Royals off to a flyer.
However, after taking 16 from the first five balls of Nortje’s first over, including ramping a 97mph delivery from the South African for four, Buttler (22 from nine) was bowled by the next - another rapid delivery that clocked a fraction over 96mph.
Stokes (41 from 35) fell just past the halfway stage of the chase but Rajasthan still appeared in control until Nortje (2-33) and Kagiso Rabada (1-28) came back, combining searing pace with great intelligence, to bowl Delhi to victory and condemn the Royals to their fifth defeat of the campaign.
The game had begun perfectly for the Royals, asked to bowl first, when Archer’s superb nip-backer castled the dangerous Prithvi first up and he then had Rahane (2) caught at mid-on as just five runs came from his first two overs.
Delhi fought back well though with Dhawan reaching his 39th IPL fifty from just 30 balls in an 85-run partnership for the third wicket with Iyer before the opener miscued a reverse sweep off Shreyas Gopal and was caught at short third man.
Iyer, having survived when plumb lbw due to a lack of appeal, went to his half-century from 40 balls but he too was unable to kick on, Archer taking a skier to give Kartik Tyagi (1-30) his first wicket.
Having used his pace to make an impact early on, Archer used his variations to great effect late in the innings and completed a fine spell with the wicket of Marcus Stoinis (18 from 19), caught at deep midwicket, before Jaydev Unadkat rounded off things off with two wickets in the final over.
With the pitch expected to slow and make batting tougher later on, Stokes and Buttler came out with real intent, the former whipping the first ball from Rabada for four before Buttler nailed a cover drive to the fence later in the over.
Two more Stokes boundaries followed in the next, from debutant Tushar Deshpander, but it was the third over that really stood out as Buttler and Nortje faced off.
There was no loosener from the fast bowler, his first ball registering at over 90mph, but Buttler was waiting and launched it effortlessly over wide long on for six. The speeds were only going up but Buttler seemed entirely unfazed as he ramped the fourth ball off middle stump, over short fine leg and away for four.
Perhaps riled up, Nortje steamed in and sent down his 97mph rocket - the fastest ball in IPL history - only for Buttler to repeat the shot and claim four more. Undeterred, the South African went flat out again, this time bowling a mere 96.3mph delivery and finding a hint of movement to beat Buttler’s bat, as he played a more orthodox shot, and clatter into middle.
The rest of the action may not have been as fast and ferocious, certainly not Steve Smith’s tame dismissal to Ravichandran Ashwin in the next over, caught and bowled as the ball looped up from a leading edge, but the intrigue remained until the last.
Stokes was doing enough to keep the required rate firmly under control while Sanju Samson (25 from 18) hit Axar Patel (1-32) for an enormous straight six but the pair fell in back-to-back overs as the Royals went from cruising at 86-2 to wobbling at 97-4.
Their cause was not helped when Robin Uthappa sold Riyan Parag a dummy, Patel throwing down the stumps to run out the helpless batsman but even after Ashwin (1-17) conceded just two from the 16th over and Rabada bowled a steady 17th, Rajasthan were still marginal favourites, needing 29 from 18 balls.
From there though, Delhi’s pacemen took over. Nortje went for just three and bowled Uthappa (32 from 27) with a 93mph yorker before Rabada dismissed Archer (1) in an equally miserly over, leaving Deshpande, on debut, with 22 to defend in the final over.
He started with a wide but after a fantastic piece of fielding from Rahane in the deep, jumping and pushing the ball back from over the rope to deny Rahul Tewatia a six, the 25-year-old was on the money and wrapped things up for the Capitals with the wicket of Gopal last ball.