At 176/5 in 18 overs, Delhi Capitals were in danger of missing out on reaching a 200-plus score. Axar Patel was on nine off 10 while his partner Shardul Thakur, who surprisingly walked ahead of a specialist batter in Sarfaraz Khan, was at three off three balls.
After David Warner and Prithvi Shaw had an opening stand of 93 in just 8.4 overs followed by Rishabh Pant’s blazing cameo of 27, Delhi suffered a mini-collapse, slipping to 166/5 in 16.4 overs. To go past 200, Delhi needed a special finishing touch from Thakur and Patel.
The much-needed acceleration began when Thakur hit Umesh Yadav for two sixes, pulled over deep mid-wicket, followed by lofting over deep cover. Patel joined in when he whacked a six over long-on and ended the 19th over with a four over extra cover as Yadav leaked 23 runs.
Thakur then started the 20th over by thumping Pat Cummins over mid-off for four and finished off the innings by slogging a six over cow corner as 39 runs came off the last two overs. Thakur finished unbeaten with 29 off 11 balls while Patel was unconquered at 22 off 14. The partnership was worth 49 off just 20 balls as Delhi ended at a gigantic 215/5, also the highest score of the tournament.
“The pitch was really good for batting. There was one over (18th) which was tricky for us when both of us were new at the crease. In that over, it was necessary to save our wickets and bat carefully. In the last two-three overs, you have to try to get the big hits.”
“With the way the pitch was, we played really good shots (in the last two overs). The talk was to save our wicket for an over and then go for the big hits,” explained Thakur in the post-match virtual press conference about his talk with Patel in the last two overs.
It was a match where Thakur managed to contribute in all departments of the game. In the field, he took an excellent catch of Ajinkya Rahane, which required him to run backwards from mid-on while keeping his eyes on the ball and held on to the catch after fumbling a few times. Though he was hit for runs early on, Thakur came back in the final over to take the last two Kolkata wickets in giving Delhi a 44-run win.
“In T20 cricket, it’s always the impact performances. Wherever I create the impact, it’s going to make a difference, whether it’s fielding, bowling and batting. I like to give my best in all three departments whenever I am on the field. So, I am happy with my game and whatever comes good on that particular day, I am happy with it,” stated Thakur.
The role for Thakur at Delhi, in his own words, has been to shoulder extra responsibility with the bat while being flexible with the ball. “In batting, (I) have been given added responsibility. As far as bowling is concerned, in terms of bowling spells, all bowlers have to be dynamic as we don’t go as per a set pattern, like Shardul will bowl with the new ball or bowl the sixth over of the power-play or do death bowling.”
“During the timeout, the captain and coach read the situation of the game and decide who will bowl where and then discuss the general plan on what can be bowled against a particular bowler. There is also talk about how the pitch is, how it will be behaving. But the basic rule is when you are playing at the 22 yards, you have to give your best. The coach has told us one thing that no matter what the situation is, you always have to give your best.”
In terms of giving his best, team-mate Kuldeep Yadav has been doing just that in this tournament, picking 4/35, including three scalps in the 16th over, to effectively seal the game for Delhi against his former team and take his tally of wickets to ten in IPL 2022.
“I think he has a point to prove to himself. First of all, I don’t know about KKR but in whatever games he has been playing, he’s brilliant and the way he is bowling, he is getting wickets for us and keeping his run-rate in check. So, everything is falling in place at the moment,” observed Thakur.
Many had questioned Sarfaraz being kept back as Thakur joined Patel at the crease but with the superlative finish provided by the duo in the last two overs, all those queries were laid to rest.
“There are no injury concerns. He (Sarfaraz) was ready to bat since number three but it was just a tactical move as the game was going so intense. I didn’t personally care as to what was happening or not going on. Rishabh told me that you are next to bat and I went in to bat,” concluded Thakur.