IPL 2021: Ravichandran Ashwin lets bat do the talking for title-chasing Delhi Capitals

Spinner has the last word in win which pushes Mumbai Indians closer towards exit

Four days after trudging off the same field amid fraying tempers, then walking into a spirit-of-cricket row in cyberspace, Ravichandran Ashwin finally let his bat do the talking at Sharjah Cricket Stadium.

Last time out, the Delhi Capitals spin bowler had to be held back from Kolkata Knight Riders captain Eoin Morgan after the duo traded polarised opinions on Ashwin’s running between the wickets.

Ashwin subsequently took to Twitter to defend his decision to pursue a run after the ball had deflected off his batting partner.

Judged by how his main discipline went against Mumbai Indians on Saturday, he was still feeling the strain on his return to the playing field.

Sharjah has proved to be a difficult place to score freely so far since the Indian Premier League returned to the UAE last month.

As such, Ashwin’s concession of 41 from his four overs might have been terminal in a low-scoring game against a Mumbai side who are fighting desperately to retain their title.

Two sixes off the 20th over of the Mumbai innings, bowled by Ashwin, left Delhi with 130 to win.

It was a slow crawl to get there – until the point that Ashwin hit the first ball of the final over into the stand at square leg, allowing him to emit a roar of celebration.

The India spinner’s role with the bat had been crucial, as he shared in a stand worth 39 in six overs with Shreyas Iyer to help seal the win.

“He came in and was really positive,” Iyer said of Ashwin. “He wanted to take singles, and that went to the last two overs. He decided he would take the bowlers on during the last two overs.”

Iyer’s own innings, a run-a-ball effort worth 33 not out, was his third notable contribution in four matches since he returned from injury.

It continued Delhi’s fine form on the march to the playoffs, as they bid to avenge last season’s final defeat to Mumbai.

“It felt really amazing to bat through and take my team through,” Iyer said. “It was a low scoring game. I backed myself and my instincts. I knew I would win the game for the team.”

While Delhi continue to harbour hopes of a first IPL title, Mumbai’s grip on their crown is becoming increasingly tenuous.

Even if they win their remaining to league-stage matches – against Rajasthan Royals and Sunrisers Hyderabad – they could yet still miss out on a playoff berth.

“We know we are still in the competition, even though we lost today,” Shane Bond, the Mumbai bowling coach, said.

“We have to win the next game, and it all comes down to the last one hopefully for us.

“We are playing OK. We know we are nowhere near our best, but we are still in the competition, even though we have only had five wins.

“All going well we can get two wins under our belt, hope other results go our way, and we can see what happens.”

The fixture continued the trend for low-scoring games at Sharjah, which is in stark contrast to what occurred there last season.

Avesh Khan and Axar Patel each took three wickets for Delhi, with the latter being named player of the match.

“We knew it will be a difficult venue,” Rohit Sharma, Mumbai’s captain, said. “We watched a lot of matches, and it's not the easiest venues to play and make a lot of runs.

“We were well prepared and we knew what we had to do. I thought we didn't bat well enough.

“We just didn't get the partnerships going. If your batters aren't going to post runs on the board, it will be difficult to win games. I personally accept that.

“Hopefully, in the next two games, we play the way we are known for."

Updated: October 2nd 2021, 5:19 PM