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Nandre Burger unleashed one at 150kph, another at 138.5kph to Ricky Bhui. Which one got the batsman?

The 22-year-old’s 45-balled 84 plotted RR’s 12-run win over Capitals while Nandre Burger and Avesh Khan provided closing touches.

Synopsis: Delhi set up the game with early breakthroughs but Riyan Parag, in his new role, turned the tide. Despite early wickets, David Warner posed a threat but Avesh Khan would see off the game for Rajasthan.

Parag thrives at no. 4

After the early setbacks, it was the wild card entry of Ravichandran Ashwin at no. 5 that spiced up Rajasthan’s innings. Three polished sixes in the space of a couple overs amped up a désolante run rate. Shouldering the innings for much of its entirety, however, fell upon the newly promoted number four, Riyan Parag.

It’s been one of the recurring queries over the past few seasons – how long can Rajasthan persist with him? The hype has been there since he first arrived on the IPL stage, but the returns haven’t come. The trolls have followed. “People have a problem with me chewing gum. If my collar is up, that’s a problem,” he’d said to The Indian Express last year. On Thursday, the collar stayed down in Jaipur as Parag rose to the occasion, notching his best-ever score in the league. This, after having been down with a flu earlier this week.

It wasn’t an all-out wham-bam affair, rather an innings where Parag cautiously chose his moments before closing the innings in a frenzy. His forays against Kuldeep Yadav came only off the odd short ones. It’s not the easiest of tasks to clear the square boundaries on either side at the Sawai Mansingh Stadium. Parag, though, ripped into the wrist-spinner with ease, clearing his front leg and using his strong core with an upper body swivel to clear the mid wicket fence – twice on the night.

Mukesh Kumar only got punished for the half-volley down the leg stump – a wristy flick behind square – and a slot ball lined on the off – a thump down the ground. Khaleel Ahmed had been imperial with the new ball – snapping Sanju Samson and conceding only nine off his three overs. Come his last over though, Parag laced three boundaries in a row – the most splendorous of which was a pick-up shot over deep square leg.

His biggest statement of the night came in the last over. A 25-run takedown – laced with three fours and two sixes – of the Delhi’s pace spearhead, Anrich Nortje. It gave reason to all the hype Parag has induced over the years. When Nortje landed a yorker outside the off stump, Parag opened the face of his bat to slice one between the keeper and the short third. When he took the pace off the ball, out came a pull shot in front of the square. As for the quintessential 144 KPH thunderbolt that was pounded into the wicket, an even sweeter sound came off the willow, from another pull.

As he stood by the boundary to address the moment for the host broadcasters, eyes moist, Parag couldn’t help but recall the lows of the past few seasons. “It’s been tough, I am a bit emotional right now. It’s been a lot of work. Backed myself, practised a lot, seeing the fruits now.”

Burger bites early

Following his pupil’s eye-catching start in South African colors, Neil Levenson had forewarned that Nandre Burger was just getting started. “The next big target – even though he’s touching it – we’re calling it Project 150. To try and bowl it consistently. It’s quite a task, I know, but he will be a ‘nightmare’ for any batting unit when he gets there,” Levenson had told this newspaper.

As the speedometer touched the elusive mark on Thursday, Burger managed to cut down on the early advantage Mitch Marsh had offered the visitors. The Australian had peppered the Proteas for three fours before the latter dispatched a fiery in-swinger to knock his off stump.

Powerplay brilliance ⚡️⚡️

Nandre Burger is breathing 🔥 at the moment!

Head to @Jiocinema & @StarSportsIndia to watch the match LIVE 💻📱#TATAIPL | #RRvDC

— IndianPremierLeague (@IPL) March 28, 2024

Even dastardly was the left-armer’s setup to remove Ricky Bhui. He unleashed a 150 kph ripper on the pads. Softened up, Bhui was undone by a slower one – which in Burger’s books is 138.5 kph – which caught a deflection off his glove on its way to the keeper.

Setting up the last dance

Having already called it a day from ODIs and Tests, David Warner had made it clear: this year’s T20 World Cup would be his final act for Australia. His preparation for the same couldn’t be more suited. In what is the precursor to the tournament this summer, Warner still holds the keys – as he did against Rajasthan – if Delhi Capitals are to make it to the playoffs.IPL 2024: David Warner vs Rajasthan Royals  Jaipur: Delhi Capitals batter David Warner plays a shot during the Indian Premier League (IPL) 2024 T20 cricket match between Rajasthan Royals (RR) and Delhi Capitals, at Sawai Mansingh Stadium in Jaipur, Thursday, March 28, 2024. (PTI Photo)

Pegged back by two quick wickets in the powerplay, the stylish southpaw stitched together a crucial partnership with Rishabh Pant, playing the aggressor. He’d take his chances against the two left-armers with the new ball, holding the angular advantage. Whether it was against Trent Boult, who pitched it full or length, or Burger, who accessed the short one with his pace, Warner kept the boundaries coming.

Perhaps nothing embodied his will to keep attacking better than his slash off Avesh Khan. Standing deep in his crease, on middle and leg stump, Warner freed his arms to carve a delivery – almost a wide ball – down backward point for four. “It’s a miracle he can reach that,” Matthew Hayden would ponder on the comms. Avesh eventually got the better of IPL’s serial run-scorer, before he wrapped the game for Rajasthan, conceding only four when 17 were needed in the last over.

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