Having bowled smartly (spearheaded by Jofra Archer), they had managed to limit DC to 161 despite fifties from Shreyas Iyer and Shikhar Dhawan. It was all a matter of clinically closing out the game and taking back two much-needed points to stay clear of the bottom places.
The ploy to promote Stokes worked on this occasion, as the southpaw combined well with Jos Buttler to give RR an aggressive start. However, the loss of skipper Smith and Buttler early dented RR and slowed down Stokes' scoring rate.
Yet, at the 10-over mark, RR still looked very comfortable, with their match-winners from the previous game - Riyan Parag and Rahul Tewatia - yet to come. It was the dismissal of Stokes, and of Sanju Samson soon after, that turned the game for DC.
Robin Uthappa was steady but was unable to score quickly, and departed with the team still in need of runs. Young Parag had earlier been run-out after a very poorly judged call for a single by Uthappa, for just 1 off 2. It left the game down to Tewatia and Archer to polish off, against DC's South African duo of Rabada and Nortje.
What then followed was a display of why truly DC deserve their place at the top of the table - tenacious, persistent and quick death bowling. DC's pacers threw in the slower ones as variations and didn't allow many scoring shots. RR crumbled in the final three overs from which they needed 29 - they have polished off far more earlier - to hand DC a well-deserved win by 13 runs.
In a nail-biting contest with some high-quality pace bowling and aggressive batting up front, some players were unable to handle the pressure. Here are the three biggest flops from the DC vs RR IPL 2020 game.
#3 Ajinkya Rahane (DC)
Playing only his second game this tournament in place of the injured Rishabh Pant, Rahane got an opportunity to play against a side he knows inside out. He had been a part of RR for the longest time, and had captained the franchise as well.
Unfortunately, the experience he may have had facing Jofra Archer in the RR nets did not seem to result in any gains against his former teammate.
Coming in at a precarious time, with DC 0/1 after the first ball of the game, Rahane did well to survive an over of thunderbolts bowled by Archer. Unfortunately, he lost his patience and gave a catch in the infield trying to pull a quick delivery, departing for just 2 off 9 balls.
Rahane redeemed himself in the field, brilliantly saving a ball which could have gone for six and taking a catch to dismiss Archer. However, he looks unlikely to hold on to his place once Pant returns.
#2 Steve Smith (RR)
For the first few overs, RR captain Steve Smith appeared to have a smile on his face, probably due to the brisk start by England teammates Stokes and Buttler.
Coming in at the fall of Buttler's wicket, however, Smith continued his poor run of form for RR in the top order. Facing up to DC's lead spinner and one of the world's best in Ravichandran Ashwin, Smith completely misread the ball and played down the wrong line, lobbing a simple return catch.
His dismissal marked the start of a tricky stage, which was well negotiated by Samson. Given his poor returns in the top order, Smith may have to cede his No. 3 spot to Samson if RR are to stay in the hunt. RR would have fared a lot better had their skipper put more runs on the board on the night.
#1 Prithvi Shaw (DC)
DC's pocket dynamo with the bat, Shaw has had a middling IPL 2020 apart from two fifty-plus scores, with an average of 25 after 8 games. His flashy strokeplay gets DC off to flying starts when it comes off, as evidenced by his high strike rate, which is touching 150 this season.
But this game required application, especially when pitted against one of the quickest bowlers in the league. Jofra Archer's very first ball of the game was speared in at pace just back of a length. Looking to push-drive the ball with minimal footwork - a feature of his natural gameplay - Shaw exposed a gap between bat and pad. The ball took the inside edge onto the stumps, and Archer and RR were underway.
Although his replacement at the crease, Rahane, looked unconvincing at playing the express pace as well, slightly more application may have helped a player who is usually good against the quicks in the powerplay.
Published 15 Oct 2020, 00:50 IST