After becoming the first team to be eliminated from the playoff race in Indian Premier League 2023, Delhi Capitals downed Punjab Kings by 15 runs, despite a cracking 94 by Liam Livingstone, to register their fifth win of the season. The defeat left Shikhar Dhawan and Co’s campaign hanging by a thread.

Delhi Capitals' Kuldeep Yadav, center, consoles Punjab Kings' Liam Livingstone, left, at the end of the Indian Premier League cricket match between Punjab Kings and Delhi Capitals(AP)
Delhi Capitals’ Kuldeep Yadav, center, consoles Punjab Kings’ Liam Livingstone, left, at the end of the Indian Premier League cricket match between Punjab Kings and Delhi Capitals(AP)

Asked to bat first in the picturesque HPCA Stadium in Dharamshala, DC rode on Rilee Rossouw’s unbeaten 82 to finish with 213/2. Livingstone bossed the chase and hit nine sixes as PBKS put up a valiant fight, but they fell short eventually and were restricted to 198/8.

Prithvi Shaw returned to action after scoring 47 runs in six games before spending nearly a month on the DC bench. And the 23-year-old was impressive as he provided DC with a 94-run opening stand along with skipper David Warner.

Shaw hit seven fours and a six and was his aggressive self in a 38-ball 54. Warner was off to a quiet start but went after Kagiso Rabada in the fourth over as DC added 17 runs. The Australian perished in the 10th over for 46 off 31, but that didn’t turn the tide in Punjab’s favour as Rossouw came to the crease.

The South African left-hander slammed his first IPL half-century, striking six fours and as many sixes in his superb knock. English keeper-batter Philip Salt, in at No. 4, was also effective and remained not-out on 26 off 14.

Nathan Ellis, with figures of 0/46, was the most expensive bowler for PBKS as he leaked 18 runs in the penultimate over of the innings. However, it was the last over by Harpreet Brar, which went for 23 runs, that eventually hurt Punjab the most.

Punjab needed a big performance with the bat from Dhawan but it wasn’t to be. After a maiden over by Khaleel Ahmed to start the second innings, Ishant Sharma struck with his first ball as Dhawan edged it to first slip. But PBKS fought back as Prabhsimran Singh (22 off 19) and Atharva Taide added a 50-run stand for the second wicket.

Then came an incredibly fortuitous partnership as PBKS got as many as four reprieves in a span of 21 deliveries. First, Anrich Nortje dropped a sitter as Livingstone got a life when he was on three. Then, Yash Dhull dropped a sitter as Taide got a life. Then, both Livingstone and Taide got reprieves off the same delivery as DC failed to run either of them out. Finally, Taide got another life as a tough chance was put down at long-off.

All the strokes of luck aside, Taide (55 off 43) and Livingstone played some powerful strokes and added 78 runs for the third wicket before the former was retired out. Jitesh Sharma and Shahrukh Khan perished in quick succession but Livingstone powered on. Punjab needed 79 runs off 24 balls and smashed 41 runs off the next two overs.

Nortje did brilliantly to concede just five runs in the penultimate over, before Ishant was taken for 17 runs in the last over. Unfortunately for PBKS, though, Livinstone was dismissed off the last ball as they lost despite coming tantalisingly close.

Mathematically, PBKS still remain in contention for a playoff spot but will need a miracle of sorts to qualify. A win in their last league game against Rajasthan Royals is a must, besides a number of other results going their way.