England exile, Kevin Pietersen, returned from injury to lead the Delhi Daredevils in the IPL on Friday, but the skipper faltered, scoring just 16 with the bat.
Making his first professional appearance in three months, the 2010 World T20 winner eased his way back into the game on his comeback.
The explosive hitter had to sit on the sidelines for the franchise’s opening three games in this year’s edition of the high octane competition. A finger injury sustained during pre-season training with Surrey meant that he was unable to start the season. When he did make his return - in what was his first competitive game since being dropped by England - he took his time to get going.
Pietersen’s last innings came against Australia in the final Test of the Ashes down under on January 5. A few cobwebs were evidently being blown away as the 33-year-old scored just one run from his first eight balls.
Batting second, Delhi were forced to chase down the 184-1 recorded by Sunrisers Hyderabad. The Australian duo of Aaron Finch and David Warner put on an unbroken stand of 128 as they posted an intimidating total after Shikhar Dhawan won the toss and elected to bat.
But their opponents went well in the opening overs, and the returning captain came to the crease with the scoreboard reading 99-1. A stuttering start for Pietersen perhaps took some momentum away from Delhi as they neared the victory total. The South African-born batsman found the boundary twice throughout his 17-ball stay in the middle, hitting one six in the process.
A 32-run partnership was built with Dinesh Kartik before Dale Steyn struck with consecutive deliveries. The 30-year-old seamer found himself on a hat-trick after sending both the vice captain and Pietersen back to the pavilion.
Karthik’s dismissal invited JP Duminy to the crease, and the diminutive One Day specialist nearly carried his side over the line. 20 from seven balls brought Delhi close, but they eventually fell just five runs shy of victory. It signals a third loss from the opening four games for the Daredevils.
However, the return of one of the best batsmen in the world will surely come as a boost. Pietersen’s England demise will only serve to boost his club sides. At present he has task of lifting Delhi from their lowly standing of seventh in the IPL, before also representing Surrey and St Lucia Zouks in the Caribbean Premier League later this year.
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