IPL 2023: CSK go second on points table as Gaikwad-Conway help crush Delhi Capitals

Synopsis: Gaikwad-Conway overpower ‘villain’ Warner to keep CSK in playoffs fight

Delhi Capitals assistant coach Shane Watson had critiqued the grassless-slow Kotla strip on the eve of the game. Hours before the toss, it’d be watered and rolled to take the assist away from the bowlers. The toss however, went CSK’s way and so did the game, with the wicket slowing down as the game progressed. By the time Delhi realised the nature of the wicket, it was Chennai who had the ball, early wickets and 223 runs in their kitty to see through a vital win.

Gaikwad-Conway have a field day

The signs were there, from the very beginning. Of a calamitous outing for the DC bowlers. One can point finger at Ruturaj Gaikwad rocking back in the second over, slow motion in real time, and splitting the gap between deep mid wicket and long on. Or perhaps it was Devon Conway transferring his body weight on the front foot to play the one-legged-flick over the infield for four in the next over. But perhaps, it was the one Gaikwad played off Axar Patel in the powerplay – seated on his backfoot – a silky smooth loft drive over cover. In the reverse fixture between these two at Chennai, the opener had gotten himself dismissed playing the same shot off the same bowler. A loft played in two minds that landed straight in the palms of the fielder at long off. This one was squarer and hit late, collapsing his arms, after Gaikwad had forced Axar to bowl wide of the stumps by shuffling the feet outside leg stump before returning to his natural stance on the middle. Ominous enough?

It wasn’t wild slogging and smashing, it couldn’t be with this duo that added 141 runs for the opening stand that lasted for 87 deliveries. Despite hitting a bit of snag towards the end of the powerplay but there was little worry.

After pummeling Axar Patel with back-to-back backfoot maximums in the ninth over, Gaikwad upped the ante in the 11th against the left arm orthodox’s replacement. Kuldeep Yadav, who had troubled him in his first two overs, tossed the ball up for three consecutive deliveries in his third, watching them clear the boundary every single time.

His wicket in the 15th over meant little respite for DC. Conway continued the assault.

The Kiwi opener has measured the boundaries early off Delhi’s numero uno pacer, Anrich Nortje. Swivelling across and rolling his wrists to pull a short one down the square leg boundary followed by a leaning forward punch to beat mid off for the same result. Easier on the eye than they read. His face off against the same bowler later in the innings embodied a more aggressive approach. The southpaw began the 17th over with a wild dance down the ground, inducing a thick edge down third man for four. Cashing in on his luck, Conway didn’t flinch when Nortje went short and quick later in the over, shoveling the ball straight into the stands behind deep square leg.

Warner almost the ‘villain’

In the recently aired episode of Breakfast With Champions, David Warner had shared his aspirations for playing a villain in a Telugu film. “I have to play the bad guy, that’s my nature.” With Chennai requiring a win in their last league game to stay in contention for a playoffs spot, the Delhi captain almost ended up playing a successful antagonist.

With Chennai pacers nabbing three wickets in the powerplay, Delhi were all but out of the picture in pursuit of 224. They’d do for most of the innings, with only Axar Patel (13) and Yash Dhull (15) managing to score in double figures other than Warner, who defied the usual collapse script to amass 86 off 58 deliveries before he fell to Matheesha Pathirana in the 19th over.

IPL 2023 New Delhi: Delhi Capitals batter David Warner plays a shot during the IPL 2023 cricket match between Delhi Capitals and Chennai Super Kings, at Arun Jaitley Stadium in New Delhi, Saturday, May 20, 2023. (PTI Photo/Manvender Vashist Lav)

The wicket had gotten slower and lower, forcing a ‘F***ing low’ scream in agony from the southpaw towards the middle of the innings. The foundation for it had been laid with a strong reading of slower deliveries. No two shots depicted it better than his forays against Deepak Chahar in the powerplay. Chahar had claimed two wickets in his first spell, taking the pace of the ball. However, CSK’s premium new ball bowler couldn’t fool the Aussie, who would loot the first six of the innings running down on a slower one and delaying his shot before clamping it over long on. For the boundary off the next delivery, he’d wait deep in his crease before getting it over mid-on for four.

For all the irony, it was a slower one from Pathirana that closed his innings and eventually DC’s sluggish IPL 2023 campaign. Chennai move to second in the table, and yet again their fans will dream for a memorable finish.

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