The Indian Premier League 2023 is very open. There are only a handful of games to play, yet the four teams to qualify for the play-offs are yet to be decided.
And the mid-table battle only heated further on Saturday, May 13, 2023, with Punjab Kings pulling off a 31 run win over bottom placed Delhi Capitals in a North Indian derby in New Delhi.
The equation was such that, after back-to-back losses, Punjab had to win to keep themselves in the hunt for a play-off spot and on Saturday they looked like a team on a mission.
Put in to bat on a slow track, Punjab were jolted early with Ishant Sharma -- in his 100th IPL match -- sending Shikhar Dhawan and Liam Livingstone back to the pavilion before Axar Patel dismissed Jitesh Sharma -- all 3 wickets coming inside the Powerplay (50 for 3).
While Punjab kept losing wickets at one end, Opener Prabhsimran Singh went on the attack at the other. He was numb to the wickets falling around him and only focused on the task ahead of him.
With Sam Curran at the other end post the Powerplay, Prabhsimran was decidedly content with rotating the strike. Once they had the measure of the slow pitch, they put on a 72 run stand.
Punjab needed partnerships to rebuild and this pair did exactly that. Where the singles and twos were available, they rotated the strike and when a bad ball came along it got the treatment.
Mitchell Marsh bowled a poor 11th over peppered with slower deliveries and slot balls that made for easy pickings -- Curran and Prabhsimran taking 21 runs off him.
Prabhsimran carried the momentum deep into his innings, ensuring that boundaries continued even though the duo rotated the strike. Curran played maturely to allow Prabhsimran hog the strike and maintain the run rate.
Prabhsimran received a reprieve on 68 when he dropped by Riley Rossouw in the deep off Praveen Dubey. Although Curran was dismissed in the very same over, Prabhsimran pounced on the life given.
There was no backing down and he continued scoring through boundaries. Be it the pacers or spinners, none were spared and runs came at over 12 runs an over on an average. He got to his century in the 18th over, helping Punjab to 167 for 7 in their 20 overs.
With a win in their sights, Punjab needed to strike early to make life difficult for DC. On the contrary, David Warner and Phillip Salt gave Punjab a big fright with both openers going great guns.
Warner took charge of the chase and punished the gift deliveries that were fed to him. DC raced to 65 for no loss in the Powerplay, looking set for a big win.
But one bowler got the breakthrough and DC fell like nine pins. Harpreet Brar's one over spell (3rd over) saw him get a 13-run hammering at the hands of Warner and Salt. He was brought back after the Powerplay and he had Salt bowled second ball of the 7th over.
That was the beginning of the end as DC lost wickets in a clump. They lost Salt, Marsh, Rossouw, Warner, Axar and Manish Pandey off five successive overs with just 28 more added to the board.
While leg-spinner Rahul Chahar kept things tight at one end and took out Marsh and Axar, Brar kept firing in fuller balls and eventually finishing with 4 for 30.
The wickets shared between Brar and Chahar broke DC to a point of no return. A gettable 53 were needed off the last 30 balls, but Praveen Dubey and Aman Khan batted like they had resigned to their fate.
Except for a few fours and a six, the duo just could not accelerate the innings, thereby killing any hopes DC had of staying alive in the competition.