CHENNAI: Ever since he missed the 2017 edition of the Indian Premier League (IPL) due to a shoulder injury, KL Rahul has set the stage on fire on his return. On Sunday, with his 51-ball 77, the Lucknow Super Giants skipper not only helped his side post a daunting total of 195/3 against Delhi Capitals at the Wankhede Stadium, Mumbai but also crossed the 400-run mark for the fifth consecutive season.
In the end, the target proved more than enough for the Rishabh Pant-led side as they responded with 189/7, losing the match by six runs. The win also helped Lucknow leapfrog Rajasthan Royals to be placed second on the table with 14 points from 10 matches.
Opting to bat first, Rahul, along with his opening partner Quinton de Kock, gave the team a flying start scoring 42 from 4.2 overs before the latter departed after a quick-fire 23 off just 13 balls. The Karnataka batter then joined forces with Deepak Hooda (52 off 34 balls), adding 95 runs for the second wicket and more importantly, nullifying the spin threat posed by the DC troika of Kuldeep Yadav, Lalit Yadav and Axar Patel, who went wicketless. The trio conceded 70 runs from a combined eight overs they bowled during the innings.
Given his form with the willow over the past five seasons since 2018 (2999 runs from 65 matches so far), Rahul can aptly be termed as Mr Consistent of the cash-rich league. He had finished in the top-3 of leading run-getters from 2018 to 2021 winning the Orange Cap in the 2020 edition. In the ongoing edition, he is placed second behind Rajasthan's Jos Buttler (566, 9 matches) with 451 runs from 10 matches including two centuries and as many half-centuries.
If Rahul and Hooda starred with the bat for the Lucknow franchise against Delhi, it was Uttar Pradesh's left-arm medium-pacer Mohsin Khan, who impressed with the ball. Opening the bowling for his side, the 23-year-old Mohsin claimed 4/16 from his four overs including the important wickets of David Warner (3), Pant (44) and Rovman Powell (35). He was later adjudged player of the match for his brilliant spell.
At one stage, Pant and Powell were threatening to run away with the game as the latter hit Krishnappa Gowtham for two consecutive sixes and a four, plundering 18 runs from the 12th over of the innings.
Mohsin then castled the Delhi skipper in the next over with a fuller delivery. Pant's departure, however, didn't slow down the Jamaican, who continued scoring at a brisk pace.
With 50 needed off the last four overs, Mohsin once again did the trick as he bowled a short cutter angling across to finish just outside off. The West Indian tried to clear the longer leg-side boundary only to find Krunal Pandya at the deep midwicket. He then accounted for Shardul Thakur in the same over, almost sealing the deal for his side.
Axar (42 not out) and Kuldeep (16 not out) though used the long handle to good effect towards the end but their efforts could not bring the desired result for the team. Needing 21 from the last over, Kuldeep hit Marcus Stoinis' first delivery for a six, raising some hopes in the process. However, the Aussie and Lucknow held nerves to come out triumphant.
Brief Scores: Lucknow Super Giants 195/3 in 20 overs (Rahul 77, Hooda 52; Thakur 3/40) bt Delhi Capitals 189/7 in overs (Pant 44, Axar 42 n.o, Powell 35; Mohsin 4/16)