DC-to Pay The Price With The Stick To Jiggle On The Finish Line > Cricket News, cricinfo, mobilecric, cricbuzz, livescore and more

Cricket news - DC pay the price for batting wobble at finish line

"We actually set the platform really, really well. We were on target there to make 170-plus, but we struggled to get to 147" - Ponting

The DC-CSK game ambled along uneventfully till about the 15th over of the first innings. The sticky Feroz Shah Kotla pitch, on which Shreyas Iyer believed batting first would be ideal, didn't make way for fluent run-scoring at any stage. It wasn't a surface where even Suresh Raina would get the ball to turn square - like he did at Chepauk in the season opener - but the ball was still stopping quite a bit, making batsmen work harder to time their strokes.

The double whammy for the understandably conservative Capitals' approach after the PowerPlay overs was that Dhoni and CSK came equipped with the perfect bowlers for the conditions. Both Shikhar Dhawan and Shreyas Iyer slowed down further against the immaculate control shown by Ravindra Jadeja while firing in fuller deliveries mostly on and outside the off-stump. Shreyas would later admit: "I usually don't have trouble starting against spinners but today it was turning and holding up."

Yet, with quick runs against Imran Tahir's leg spin, they somehow arrived at 118 for 2 in 15 overs, where the momentum was there to be snatched away from the bowling side.

Rishabh Pant glanced over his shoulder to his favourite leg side, only to find ample protection all along the boundary. Dhoni employed a long on, a deep square leg and a deep midwicket to protect against the big heave in his incredibly wide hitting arc; a short third man if Rishabh mistimes his scoop, and just the one fielder in the deep on the off-side at sweeper cover.

Having understood the pulse of the pitch by this stage, Dhoni instructed Dwayne Bravo to move away from his usual game plan of using variations to befuddle batsmen in the death overs. Bowl straighter, on the stumps and keep it quick was the message passed on as Bravo ran in from around the stumps to the left-handed Pant. The idea was also to angle the ball into the left-hander and leave him with no choice but to hit big on the leg side rather than taking the risk of trying to clear the packed off-side field inside the circle with an inside out attempt.

Rishabh's quick-motion part-pull, part-flick shot didn't go as far as he intended it to. Instead, Shardul Thakur at deep square leg covered a bit of ground to his right and took a sharp catch to punch holes into DC's lofty death-overs ambitions.

As Colin Ingram failed to keep his drive along the ground two balls later and Keemo Paul played the wrong line against Jadeja in the following over, Capitals regressed quickly. And thus, squandered the platform that Dhawan's controlled innings paved way for.

"We can't expect Rishabh to play like he did in Mumbai, everyday. No one can go and get 78 off 20-odd balls in every game. But it was there for that to happen today. It wasn't just Rishabh, Ingram had an opportunity as well. Shreyas had a good opportunity again today," Ricky Ponting said at the post-match press conference.

Those with the benefit of hindsight might argue that Dhawan himself could've scored quicker, as he finished with a sedate (by T20 standards) 47-ball 51. But the senior batsman appeared to be merely sticking to his brief.

Dhawan's 43 in Capitals' victory against Mumbai Indians too came at a measly strike rate of 119.44, but warranted praise from Ponting on the eve of their first home game.

"That is what we want from Shikhar," Ponting had said. "Hold the top order together. We needed Shikhar to play that sort of role and get through the tough overs and that was going to allow Ingram and Rishabh to play the way they did later on."

At the Kotla too, Dhawan did exactly that. Only this time, the rest of the batting line-up didn't hold their end of the bargain. Ponting admitted he'd have liked Dhawan to have scored a bit quicker, but his disappointment still came from the way Capitals failed to finish the innings. "Ideally, yes, you'd like that [Dhawan scoring quicker] But it obviously wasn't an easy wicket either for anyone to go in and strike. Specially at the end of the PowerPlay. There's a certain role that we want Shikhar to play in this team.

"Even by his own admission, he would've liked to score quicker today, but at the 15th over mark, we were 2 for 118. So we actually set the platform really, really well. We were on target there to make 170-plus, but we struggled to get to 147, so it's the back end of the innings that I am sort of most disappointed in because I think we set up the front part of the innings pretty well," Ponting said.

The position that Capitals found themselves after 19 overs was eerily similar to the way they were placed in the same fixture last season. The scores were nearly the same (138 for 6 this year; 136 for 5 in 2018) and Bravo was to bowl the game-defining final over. But the West Indian didn't let a repeat of his 26-run error-strewn over happen as Capitals ended on a modest 147.

The failure to convincingly close out the innings had a consequential impact on what would immediately follow - which in turn, was also responsible for Capitals finishing on the wrong side of the result.

At the start of CSK's chase, the to-do list of both teams looked identical - the urgent need to attack.

Having figured how tough batting could be in the post-PowerPlay overs, CSK came with the desire to score as much as they could when the field restrictions were on, and the Capitals began with the agenda of trying to pick early wickets. And in this intense sparring, the game titled further in the favour of the visitors.

T20 sides these days thrive on data analysis and match-ups with their opposition, which explained Shreyas's call to bring in left-arm spinner Axar Patel in the second over to unsettle Shane Watson. Axar's two rank looseners, though, had the opposite effect on the Australian.

Ishant Sharma tried the oldest trick in the book against Raina, but the CSK No.3 expected it, camped deep inside the crease and kept dispatching away the bumpers coming his way. Four boundaries in the fifth over took CSK's scoring rate past 10-an-over and left DC to play catch-up for the rest of the game.

"I think CSK when they were chasing that sort of a total, having bowled first on the wicket, they knew it was going to slow down a lot in the middle overs. So tactically they had to come out quite hard in the Powerplay and try and get ahead of the game, which is what they did.

"We probably just over-attacked a little bit with the ball, we probably went searching for early wickets. We had to take early wickets to give ourselves a chance to win, but, when you're just off the mark against the quality of players like Shane Watson, then they're going to make you pay. We just over-attacked a little bit," Ponting opined.

Feroz Shah Kotla was an anomaly last season - where, in contrast with IPL trends, teams batting first pocketed more wins than the chasers. It was also a venue where DC batted first six times in seven matches and averaged 186.5. On Tuesday, even 20 fewer would've sufficed.

That CSK's chase would go till the final over was further evidence of how costly the home team's death-overs wobble with the bat proved to be - an aspect of their game that is bound to come up when they regroup and device plans to 'bat better'.

"We've got to sit down tonight and the next couple of days and talk about how we are going to bat better on that surface. I think if you look at that wicket block... the wickets that we get right through the season are going to be similar to the one we got tonight. So we need to work out a way to play a little bit better, play a little bit smarter on that wicket," Ponting said.

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