Sam Curran and Liam Livingstone played starring roles with the bat as Punjab Kings got their Indian Premier League (IPL) 2024 campaign off to a flying start with a four-wicket win over Delhi Capitals at their new home ground, the Maharaja Yadavindra Singh International Cricket Stadium here on Saturday.

It was a seesaw battle between the two teams with base in North India on a solid black soil pitch bereft of grass. But PBKS always had their noses ahead in the chase, especially with Ishant Sharma going off the field after twisting his right ankle while fielding in the sixth over.

It meant DC’s bowlers, barring a superb Kuldeep Yadav, didn’t come well, apart from dropped catches adding more misery to their woes in a game which was also their captain Rishabh Pant’s first competitive cricket game after a 14-month layoff to recover from injuries suffered in a near-fatal car accident in December 2022.

Curran top-scored with 63, while Livingstone was not out on 38 as PBKS closed the chase with four balls to spare as they scored 177/6 after restricting Delhi Capitals to 174/9 in 20 overs thanks mainly to 33 by Shai Hope and a blazing 32 not out by Abishek Porel.

Chasing 175, Shikhar Dhawan and Jonny Bairstow hit two fours each in the 17-run opening over bowled by Khaleel Ahmed. Ishant Sharma began with three wides, as Dhawan took a boundary each off him and Mitchell Marsh. But Ishant, the seasoned campaigner, bounced back as his length ball went past Dhawan’s swipe across the line to hit the stumps.

Prabhsimran Singh got going with two fours, but Jonny Bairstow was run out at the non-striker's end as Ishant got a finger-tip to a drive by Prabhsimran, which crashed into the stumps. Prabhsimran hit two wow fours off Khaleel – pulling over mid-wicket on the back foot and driving on the front foot wide of cover.

DC suffered a big blow when Ishant walked off the field after badly twisting his right ankle while trying to throw the ball from the deep. The 42-run stand between Prabhsimran and Curran ended in the tenth over when the former went for a loft on a googly from Kuldeep Yadav and holed out to long-on.

Two overs later, Jitesh Sharma was stumped by Pant while going for a reverse sweep off Kuldeep Yadav. Curran was handed a lifeline at 34 when Tristan Stubbs spilled his catch at long-on off Kuldeep in the 14th over. To rub salt in the wounds, Curran slapped and pulled Marsh for two fours in the next over, with Livingstone ending the 18-run over with a massive six heaved over mid-wicket.

After Curran got his fifty in 38 balls, Livingstone took a brace of fours off Khaleel to put PBKS in the hunt for a win. Curran continued to find boundaries by hooking and cutting off Marsh for six and four before Livingstone hooked him for a six to end another 18-run over for PBKS.

Khaleel bounced back by castling Curran with his slower ball to end his 67-run stand off 42 balls with Livingstone and bounced out Shashank Singh for a golden duck on consecutive deliveries.

He could have got his third wicket of the 19th over if Harpreet Brar wasn’t dropped at long-on by Warner. Livingstone finished off the chase in style by swinging over mid-wicket for six off Sumit to get their campaign off to a flying start.

Previously, Impact Player Abishek Porel played a lovely cameo right at the end of the innings to help DC post a competitive 174/9. It was an innings in which all of DC’s batters got set, but none of them got a big score.

Porel’s cameo of 32 not out off 10 balls, including 25 runs off the last over, helped DC go from 149/8 to cross the 170-run mark. Porel pulled, heaved, slogged, ramped, and flicked to hit three fours and two sixes in the final over against Harshal Patel in a stunning big-hitting onslaught.

Pushed into batting first, Marsh picked back-to-back clipped fours off Curran. From the other end, Warner feasted on short balls from Arshdeep Singh by smashing a six and four off him. Marsh welcomed Kagiso Rabada with a pulled six over deep square leg.

In the next over, he smashed a straight-bat loft off Arshdeep over long-off. But on the very next ball, Marsh fell after driving straight to Rahul Chahar at cover-point, who took a sharp catch. Warner continued to be DC’s aggressor by slapping and scooping Rabada for four and six respectively, as well as driving Harshal Patel for another boundary.

Shai Hope smacked Rahul Chahar over long-off for six and was helped by a misfield to get a four. But Patel struck by getting Warner to edge a slower bouncer and Jitesh dived forward to take the catch, with PBKS getting the decision. Hope slog-swept off Chahar for four and pulled Rabada over long-on for six, before mistiming a drive to cover off the pacer.

The moment for which everyone waited for came after Warner’s fall when Rishabh Pant got a big applause from the crowd while coming out to bat in his comeback competitive cricket game. The left-handed batter took his time, like not taking twos twice in his first six deliveries, before pulling off Chahar to Patel at mid-wicket, who dropped the catch to give him a boundary.

Pant wowed the crowd by piercing the gap with a picture-perfect drive between mid-off and cover on a half-volley from Patel. But the pacer bounced back with a slower ball angled into the body, which the batter tried to ramp over the keeper, but ended up lobbing the catch to backward point, falling for a 13-ball 18.

From there, DC’s innings went on a free-fall as Ricky Bhui went for a trickle-down leg off Harpreet Brar, but replays showed a spike while going into Jitesh’s gloves and PBKS got the decision in their favour via review.

Tristan Stubbs holed out to long-on, who ran to his left and completed a good diving catch. Axar hit a couple of boundaries, before being run out by a throw from a substitute fielder at deep square leg while going for a second run. Sumit Kumar shaped for a drive, but nicked behind to Jitesh off Arshdeep, before Porel’s blitzkrieg took DC to a fighting total, which wasn’t enough to begin their IPL 2024 on a winning note.

Brief scores:

Delhi Capitals 174/9 in 20 overs (Shai Hope 33, Abishek Porel 32 not out; Arshdeep Singh 2-28, Harshal Patel 2-46) lost to Punjab Kings 177/6 in 19.2 overs (Sam Curran 63, Liam Livingstone 38 not out; Kuldeep Yadav 2-20, Khaleel Ahmed 2-43) by four wickets

(Except for the headline, this story, from a syndicated feed, has not been edited by Odishatv.in staff)