IPL 2024: Pant makes 'emotional' comeback but can't prevent Delhi defeat against Punjab

India wicketkeeper batter returns to action to lead Kings as they fall to four-wicket loss to Capitals

Powered by automated translation

Rishabh Pant made a "really emotional" comeback to top-level cricket after more than a year out but could not prevent a four-wicket Delhi Capitals' defeat to Punjab Kings in the Indian Premier League on Saturday.

India's wicketkeeper batsman last played competitive cricket 453 days ago after he suffered a horror car crash in December 2022.

"Really emotional time for me," Pant said at the toss. "Just want to enjoy the moment."

Pant crashed his Mercedes SUV near New Delhi, suffering several serious injuries when the car hit a crash barrier, flipped over and caught fire.

Pant has undergone intensive rehabilitation since the smash left him with a damaged ligament in his right knee, wrist and ankle injuries and abrasions to his back.

In Pant's absence, Australia's David Warner stepped in to skipper Delhi, who finished ninth in the 10-team league last season.

At the Maharaja Yadvindra Singh Stadium on Saturday, Punjab skipper Shikhar Dhawan won the toss and decided to put the visitors in to bat first.

Pant, 26, got a standing ovation as he strode out to the middle after the fall of opener Warner for 29.

He hit a flowing cover drive for a boundary to begin his innings before a slower delivery from Harshal Patel got him caught at backward point for 18 off 13 balls while attempting a ramp shot.

Punjab kept down Delhi to 174-9 with Arshdeep Singh and fellow medium-pace bowler Patel taking two wickets each.

Chasing 175 for victory, Punjab rode on England all-rounder Sam Curran's 47-ball 63 to achieve their target with four wickets and four balls to spare at IPL's newest venue at Mullanpur in the northern Indian state of Punjab.

Skipper Shikhar Dhawan was bowled by fast bowler Ishant Sharma after a brisk start of 22.

England's Jonny Bairstow had an unlucky dismissal when he was run out at the non-striker's end after the ball grazed bowler Ishant's finger and hit the stump with the batsman short of his crease.

But the left-handed Curran kept anchor to raise his half-century and put on a key 67-run fifth-wicket stand with fellow Englishman Liam Livingstone, who hit the winning six in his 21-ball 38, to steer the team home.

Pant said after the game: “Me personally, I was pretty nervous but at the same time you have to go through this when you enter the field and it’s not the first time you are feeling nervous so, happy about that, but at the same time I think we had a passcode but because we were one bowler short because of Ishant’s injury, couldn’t do much about it.

“I think that Ishant’s injury was clearly evident on the field because we were anyways playing with one bowler short.

"Having one bowler short on this kind of pitch is never good but well played to them. Really looking forward to the season.”

Punjab batsman Livingstone said: “I thought we did a lot [of things] well. Our spinners dragged it back in the middle and our seamers adapted well to conditions, we knew it was going to be a bit tough.

"I think the pitch definitely got better as the lights came on so the toss probably helped us. As a first outing as a team, I think it’s a pretty good start. It feels like we’ve got a really good bowling outfit, it feels like we’ve got a lot of options if we need them, which is always handy to have so I thought our bowlers were really good today.

“It’s been a tough year for me batting wise but coming back into this environment, this group, it’s a group that has a lot of confidence in me and that’s given me a lot of confidence as well so, hopefully, this is the start of a good tournament.”

Updated: March 23, 2024, 3:07 PM