Breath­less Pant steps up with IPL ton

Weekend Post (South Africa) - - SPORT -

IF Rishabh Pant is tired of liv­ing in Ma­hen­dra Singh Dhoni’s shadow, the 20-year-old left-han­der did a good job of vent­ing any frus­tra­tion with a blis­ter­ing cen­tury in the In­dian Premier League (IPL) at Feroz Shah Kotla on Thurs­day.

Chief selec­tor MSK Prasad has of­ten said the wick­et­keeper-bats­man re­mains very much on In­dia’s lim­ited-overs radar, while Pant knows his spo­radic in­ter­na­tional ap­pear­ances de­pend less on his per­for­mances and more on Dhoni’s fit­ness and avail­abil­ity.

Two days after be­ing dropped from In­dia’s Twenty20 squad for their tour of Ire­land and Eng­land in or­der to ac­com­mo­date a re­turn­ing Dhoni, Pant dis­played his six-hit­ting prow­ess with a blis­ter­ing un­beaten 63-ball 128, al­beit in a los­ing cause.

The nine-wicket loss to Sun­ris­ers Hyderabad en­sured his Delhi Dare­dev­ils be­came the first team to be knocked out of this year’s IPL, while their op­po­nents pro­gressed to the play­offs.

Pant left the field with his head held high, how­ever, hav­ing de­stroyed ar­guably the tour­na­ment’s best bowl­ing at­tack to reg­is­ter the high­est Twenty20 score by an In­dian player.

“Re­ally spe­cial in­nings from Rishabh,” for­mer In­dia opener Viren­der Se­hwag, a prom­i­nent hard-hit­ting bats­man of his time, gushed on Twit­ter.

“Those were not bad balls from Bhuvi [Bhu­vnesh­war Ku­mar] in the last over bar­ring the last full toss, but Rishabh Pant is re­ally spe­cial and I hope he is nur­tured well.”

Pant was sav­age on the IPL’s best death bowler, plun­der­ing 43 runs off 11 Ku­mar de­liv­er­ies, in­clud­ing a one-handed six in the fi­nal over of the in­nings.

Hyderabad’s Afghan spin­ner Rashid Khan, who many have found nearly un­playable, bled 27 off 13 against Pant, who has played four Twenty20 In­ter­na­tion­als for In­dia.

“One-handed sixes and hit­ting even good balls out of the park,” for­mer test player Mo­ham­mad Kaif tweeted.

“This was as good an in­nings you will ever see in a T20 match against the best bowl­ing lineup in the IPL, ab­so­lutely clean strik­ing. Take a bow, Rishabh Pant.”

Pant, who was in­volved in two run-outs, hit seven sixes and 15 bound­aries in his scin­til­lat­ing knock, but was nat­u­rally de­jected at his team’s fail­ure to reach the play­offs. – Reuters

SEIZING THE MO­MENT: In­dian wick­et­keeper-bats­man Rishabh Pant showed his po­ten­tial with a blis­ter­ing cen­tury in the In­dian Premier League

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