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Rishabh Pant returns as PBKS opens season with win over DC

Star Indian cricketer Rishabh Pant returned to action as Punjab Kings (PBKS) beat Delhi Capitals (DC) by four wickets in their opening encounter of the Indian Premier League (IPL) season on Saturday.

Pant, injured in a car accident in December 2022, marked his return to high-profile cricket by leading out the Capitals. He scored 18 off 13 balls in his comeback innings, AP reports.

Delhi reached 174-9 in 20 overs after Shai Hope top scored with 33 off 25 balls, while impact batter Abishek Porel smashed 32 not out off 10.

Punjab relied on Sam Curran’s 63 off 47 balls to scale the target in 19.2 overs and finished with 177-6 in reply.

Put into bat, the Capitals got a speedy start from David Warner (29) and Mitchell Marsh (20) as the duo put on 39 off 20 balls for the first wicket.

Punjab struck back through its pacers – Marsh was out caught off Arshdeep Singh, while Harshal Patel bounced out Warner.

Pant walked in to a rousing reception but played a scratchy knock even as Hope smacked two fours and two sixes off 25 balls.

Patel picked his second as Pant was out caught in the 13th over. With Hope gone as well, Delhi was down to 111-4.

It became 111-5 as Ricky Bhui only managed three runs, out caught behind to spinner Harpreet Brar (1-14). South Africa’s Tristan Stubbs also fell for just five runs.

Axar Patel scored 21 off 13 balls before he was run out. Porel was then subbed in at 138-7 and played a rescuing hand for the Capitals.

Porel smacked four fours and two sixes off the 10 balls faced as Delhi finished with an unlikely par-score in its first outing this season.

In response, Punjab was down to 42-2 as Ishant Sharma inflicted a double blow. He bowled skipper Shikhar Dhawan for 22 runs.

Then, Jonny Bairstow was run out for nine at the non-striker’s end. Sharma just managed to get his fingers onto the ball as the English batter was backing out too far.

Curran then added 42 off 33 balls with Prabhsimran Mann for the third wicket. The latter took the lead, scoring 26 off 17 balls, before he was caught at long on off Kuldeep Yadav (2-20).

Yadav picked his second as Jitesh Sharma was out stumped for nine.

It left Punjab at 100-4 in 11.3 overs, but Curran and Liam Livingstone came together to save the day.

Curran hit six fours and a six in his 39-ball 50, while Livingstone smacked three sixes and two fours in a 21-ball 38-run knock.

The duo added 67 runs off 42 balls, before Khaleel Ahmed (2-43) bowled Curran in the penultimate over. Livingstone though stayed on to the end.

Delhi dropped a couple catches which allowed Punjab to scale the target with ease.

Kolkata Knight Riders host Sunrisers Hyderabad later.