In a tournament that started off with no one team looking like clear favourites in the first couple of weeks, the cream is steadily rising to the top in the 13th edition of the Indian Premier League. On Monday, Delhi Capitals reclaimed the pole position on the table with their fourth win on the trot and are starting to look like clear early favourites to go the distance.

On the back of another all-round performance, Delhi beat Royal Challengers Bangalore by 59 runs.

That a match between two in-form teams could end up being one-sided is largely down to the bowling strength of Shreyas Iyer and Co.

Often in the recent past, any discussion about Delhi Capitals tends to revolve around the talent of their battling line up. With young Indian players like Shreyas Iyer, Rishabh Pant and Prithvi Shaw in their ranks, it is understandable that the attention remains on them. After all, cricket is a batsman’s game.

However, if after five matches Delhi are top of the standings with four wins, it is largely due to their bowling line-up led by the brilliant Kagiso Rabada.

Another great spell

That Rabada went on to take four wickets on the night against RCB despite starting off by dropping the simplest return catch that could have come his way, speaks volumes about the threat he possesses with the ball in hand. He bowls in the powerplay, he bowls when his captain needs to attack the opponent’s best batsmen in the middle overs (against Andre Russell in Sharjah and Virat Kohl in Dubai — both times the star batsmen getting dismissed), he bowls at the death. In a format where all you get to bowl are four overs, Rabada is asked to maximise his output every game. And invariably, he has delivered.

Among players to have bowled at least 250 deliveries, Rabada has the best strike-rate in the history of the tournament. His 43 wickets have come at a rate of one every 12.3 balls. Among players to have bowled at least five overs in IPL 2020, Rabada has the best SR as well, taking a wicket every 10 balls. And he, in addition to all that, is now on a 19-match unbroken streak of picking up at least one wicket per game.

Kagiso Rabada in IPL

Bowling Mat WKTS BBM Ave Econ SR 4W
Career 23 43 4/21 16.41 7.99 12.32 3
2020 5 12 4/24 12.50 7.50 10.00 1
2019 12 25 4/21 14.72 7.82 11.28 2
2017 6 6 2/20 31.33 8.81 21.33 0

And as you can see in the video below, Rabada is not just taking wickets regularly, he is doing so with the swagger of a cricketer who is in complete control of his abilities.

“I think I like to sound like a stuck record, but I don’t really plan to get wickets. It is just about putting my team in good positions. All you can do as a bowler is control where the ball is going and I try to just do that at the best of my abilities,” Rabada said after the match.

And after that, he also went on to make a point about the spinners in the side. “They sent the game up for us today,” he said, adding it was Axar Patel and R Ashwin bowling in the powerplay as well as the middle overs to squeeze the life out of the run-chase that proved crucial. “They probably won us the game,” he added.

Indeed, that is why it was an excellent decision to award the player of the match to Axar for his figures of 2/18 in four overs even though Rabada picked up four.

Axar has been a revelation for Delhi this tournament and after getting dropped in favour of Amit Mishra for the game against KKR in Sharjah, the left-arm spinner bounced with another spell of tight bowling that helped Delhi win the game. With Mishra now ruled out of the tournament, Axar is bound to feature heavily alongside Ashwin and the two can stake claim to be the hottest spin bowling combination in the tournament at this stage.

Delhi Capitals best economy rates in IPL 2020

PLAYER Inns Wkts Avg Econ SR
AxarPatel 4 4 16.00 4.57 21.00
 Amit Mishra 3 3 24.00 7.20 20.00
 Anrich Nortje 5 7 21.28 7.45 17.14
 Kagiso Rabada 5 12 12.50 7.50 10.00
 Ravichandran Ashwin 3 3 18.00 7.71 14.00

While Axar tops the chart for economy rates this season, only one bowler has bowled more dot balls than Anrich Nortje so far. The South African pacer, a late addition to the squad in place of English all-rounder Chris Woakes, has proved to be a shrewd acquisition. His extra pace and ability to extract bounce has paid dividends for Iyer, and he has chipped in with crucial wickets too, to complement Rabada.

In Sharjah, for instance, when Rabada was taken to the cleaners despite picking up the wicket of Russell, Nortje provided the breakthrough in the 19th over that sealed the game for his side: that of Eoin Morgan. And in a couple of matches, Marcus Stoinis has come forward to bowl the last bowler and done the job for Delhi too.

With four frontline bowlers in good nick, Delhi — along with Mumbai Indians — have arguably the best attack in the tournament and it is showing in the results so far.

“That’s the beauty of this particular Delhi side. Even when my shoulder dislocated, Amit came in and played the role. Now he is injured, so Axar has come in and played the role. There is enough strength on our bench and sometimes when it comes to the IPL, the people coming out of that bench become very important. That bench is probably good enough to be another IPL team, it has got a lot of quality,” Ashwin said after the win against RCB.

Indeed, with Sandeep Lamichhane still to get a look in, Harshal Patel finding his feet and the likes of Ishant Sharma also looking in from the outside, the options for Delhi are aplenty. The batsmen might get more time in the limelight because that’s the nature of this beast, but the bowlers are stepping up when needed for Delhi Capitals and delivering the points.