Delhi Daredevils may be out of the playoffs, but that didn’t stop them from putting up a strong showing to beat Rising Pune Supergiant by seven runs at the Feroz Shah Kotla Stadium on Friday. This win also heated up the race for the remaining playoff positions.

After Zaheer Khan won the toss and chose to bat first, Delhi put up 168/8. aided largely by a solid 64 from Karun Nair. The home team then defended the total with a tight bowling performance, especially from the Indian pace duo of Zaheer (2 for 25) and Mohammed Shami (2 for 37). Nair was awarded the man of the match for his half-century.

Here are the biggest talking points from the match.

Another shaky start but Delhi recover

After choosing to bat, Delhi suffered another shaky start, as has often been the case this season. Sanju Samson, who had scored a century the last time these two teams played, was run out in the first over on only 2 off 4 balls thanks to a rocket throw from Ben Stokes. Last match’s hero Shreyas Iyer was next, adding only 3 (off 4) after he slashed a high ball from Jaydev Unadkat which was caught behind by MS Dhoni. This was the veteran wicket-keeper’s 100th dismissal in the Indian Premier League. He would go on to effect a couple of more amazing dismissals in the game.

But just as Delhi looked like they were on the verge of another collapse, Rishabh Pant and Nair got together for an explosive partnership of 74 at a run rate of almost 11. The duo took the attack to Pune in the Powerplay. Here’s a fun fact: Delhi didn’t score a single boundary in the first three overs, but when on to smash five fours and six in the next three.

Pant then hit Adam Zampa for a massive six over mid-wicket that almost landed on the dressing room balcony. However, just as he looked set for something big, he immediately fell on the next ball. Zampa bowled a flatter ball, Pant tried a similar shot but didn’t get his full bat on it and was caught by Dan Christian in the deep on 36 off 22.

Karun gets a fifty, finally 

While three of Delhi’s top Four consisting of young Indian stars have played a standout knock this season, Karun Nair has been lagging behind. After a horrendous start, captaincy, change in batting position, he started to find his form back - which seemed to have deserted him since his triple ton against England. But the 25-year-old finally broke free and struck his first half century of the season. Even as wickets kept falling at the other end, he soldiered on reaching his fifty in 37 balls and holding the innings together. His knock featured nine boundaries but had no sixes. Nair finally fell in the 19th over, to an excellent catch by Unadkat off Stokes’ bowling. He top edged the delivery and Unadkat ran full throttle to pouch it with a dive. Just a glimpse of the great fielding this match saw.

Dhoni and Pune’s brilliance on the field

Speaking of excellent work in the field, just when Delhi seemed set for a big score, Dhoni swung the momentum in Pune’s favour with some outstanding glove work. The Indian keeper justified selector MSK Prasad calling him the best in the world with three dismissals in the game.

MS Dhoni's stunning catch. Image Credit: Deepak Malik - Sportzpics - IPL
MS Dhoni's stunning catch. Image Credit: Deepak Malik - Sportzpics - IPL

He first sent back Marlon Samuels with a outstanding, high one-handed catch. Dhoni timed his jump just right to seemingly pluck the ball off thin air. He followed it up with a an instinctive move to stump Corey Anderson in the split second before his feet hit the ground. It is this gut-feel glovework that makes Dhoni such a valuable wicket-keeper, and he is now the most successful one in IPL history.

Then there was the absolute screamer by Stokes at the boundary to dismiss Shami. Shami slammed one over the ground and it looked to be heading straight over the boundary, until Stokes took leaped and pushed it across. He had saved the certain six but seemed to lose balance and go over. However, he jumped right back in the fray and caught it before it hit the ground. The more we see such catches in the IPL, the better they get!

Zaheer’s early strikes

Delhi captain Zaheer had gone wicketless in his last five games. He was laying his 99th IPL match and was stuck on 99 wickets for a while. But the manner in which he got his 100th, almost made it seem worth the wait.

Zaheer knocked Ajinkya Rahane’s middle stump clean off the ground on the very first ball of the match. An aboslute peach of a delivery, it went straight through the gate to get Delhi off to a perfect start.

He followed it up with the dismissal of Rahul Tripathi, who has done well in almost every match this IPL, in his next over. He bowled a slower one and Tripathi seemed to get a slight knick, which was caught by Pant and the youngster had to walk back on 7 (off 6). Despite going for a few runs, Zaheer finished with solid figures of 2 for 25.

Tiwary, Stokes steady chase

Despite the loss of early wickets, first captain Steve Smith and then Manoj Tiwary and Ben Stokes steadied the chase of 169. Smith and Tiwary put up 38 runs in five overs, before the Australian was caught LBW by Shahbaz Nadeem on 36 off 32 balls. Tiwary was then joined by Pune’s MVP Ben Stokes and together they looked capable of finishing the chase. They put together a stand of 51 runs, even as the Delhi spin duo of Nadeeem and Amit Mishra kept up the pressure. Stokes struck three fours and two sixes in his 25-ball 33, taking full advantage of a dropped catches. However, he had to walk back in the 15th over after Corey Anderson pulled an incredible catch at the boundary himself to give Shami his first wicket. MS Dhoni and Dan Christian fell soon after to put Pune in a precarious position with 33 needed off 12

Delhi master death overs

The match ultimately went down to the wire, with Pune needing 33 off the last 12 balls, and an excellent over from Shami left them needing 25 off the last over. Tiwary brought up his fifty with a crisp six on the first ball of the last over and followed it up with another six to bring the equation to 13 off 4. A wide was given on the next ball and it looked like Tiwary could just get Pune over the line. But Pat Cummins managed to keep his nerve and Pune eventually fell short by only seven runs. Tiwary, meanwhile, was dismissed on the last ball, bowled after a commendable 45-ball 60.