All-star of the match
Two days after being dropped from India's T20I squad for Ireland and England because MS Dhoni "rightfully earned his spot back", Rishabh Pant served another reminder of his six-hitting abilities and the consistency with which he hits them. That it came against Sunrisers Hyderabad, boasting of the best economy rate in the Powerplay, middle overs and at the death this season, made it even more stunning.
Much before it became a masterclass, Pant was caught in a whirl of frustration after running out his captain Shreyas Iyer for the second time this season. Then, he turned his back on Harshal Patel, whose cameo provided Daredevils momentum in the first place. The first ball of the next over was hit out of the park in anger to raise a 36-ball half-century, his seventh in the IPL. After that, he batted like a man possessed.
When the sides last met in Hyderabad, Sunrisers demonstrated a formula for others to emulate. One of the ways to keep Pant quiet is by angling length deliveries across, around the sixth stump. His tendency to lose shape, particularly while attempting cross-batted heaves, which he usually does, have resulted in success for the bowler. This strategy allowed Sunrisers to concede just 18 runs off the 19 balls they bowled to him.
So when Bhuvneshwar angled one across at length on Thursday, even with Pant in the form he was in, it seemed a perfectly good option. Except, Pant was ready to outfox the tournament's best death bowler. After initially walking across to give the impression of trying to scoop the length over short fine leg, he quickly opened up his wrists, turned around the bat face and ramped it over short third man. By then, he had taken a middle-stump guard too, so that the shuffle would allow him to get even closer to the ball.
This allowed him to execute his leg-side swings to precision twice. The last over of the innings, by Bhuvneshwar, was belted for two fours and four sixes, the last four overs fetched 59 from his bat alone - the most any batsman has made in this period in IPL history - and Daredevils finished with 135 off the last 10. Bhuvneshwar's 11 deliveries were taken for 43 by Pant, Rashid Khan's 13 were taken for 27. Pant's late ramp over short third man was just one part of his batting rejuvenation that has been one of the bright sparks in another disappointing campaign for Daredevils.
The wow moment
Rashid had gone for 22 off three wicketless overs. Given the impact he has had this season, this was among his average performances. The first ball of his final over, the 17th of the innings, was a wrong'un drifting away from length, right into Pant's weak zone. But Pant quickly changed stance and reversed it with the spin to beat deep point for a boundary. Now, with his length-ball trick gone wrong, Rashid went full legbreak. Pant took a step back into the crease, kept a firm base, got underneath the flight and belted a six over long-on. The two different strokes exhibited Pant's improved range, showing he was no one-trick pony.
Pant is the first Indian to score a century this season. This was also the second hundred against Sunrisers this season.
Pant's 128* constituted 68.44% of the runs scored by Delhi Daredevils. This is the second-highest share in IPL history, behind Brendon McCullum's 158 in Kolkata Knight Riders' 222 in the inaugural match in 2008.
Pant's score is the highest by an Indian in the IPL, going past M Vijay's 127 in 2010. This is also the highest by an Indian in all T20s.
What they said
"Didn't expect @Bhuviofficial's super bowling to receive this phenomenal response from @RishabPant777!! Stellar over! The young talents in this year's IPL are definitely shining bright."
Mithali Raj on the final over that was clobbered for 26 runs
"He's treating one of the best bowlers in the world like a puppet on a string."
Matthew Hayden is astonished at Pant's range
"Rishabh Pant has got to be one of the most fearless and powerful young batsman I have ever come across."
Ian Bishop reacts to a special knock