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Pant's 'emotional' IPL comeback clouded by Delhi loss to Punjab

Liam Livingstone hit the winning six in his 21-ball 38 to steer Punjab Kings home (Sajjad HUSSAIN)
Liam Livingstone hit the winning six in his 21-ball 38 to steer Punjab Kings home (Sajjad HUSSAIN)

Rishabh Pant's "emotional" return to elite cricket Saturday after a horror car crash was clouded by Delhi Capitals' loss to Punjab Kings in the Indian Premier League.

Chasing 175 for victory, Punjab rode on England all-rounder Sam Curran's 47-ball 63 to achieve their target with four wickets and four balls to spare at IPL's newest venue at Mullanpur in the northern Indian state of Punjab.

Skipper Shikhar Dhawan was bowled by fast bowler Ishant Sharma after a brisk start of 22.

England's Jonny Bairstow had an unlucky dismissal when he was run out at the non-striker's end after the ball grazed bowler Ishant's finger and hit the stump with the batsman short of his crease.

But the left-handed Curran kept anchor to raise his half-century and put on a key 67-run fifth-wicket stand with fellow Englishman Liam Livingstone, who hit the winning six in his 21-ball 38, to steer the team home.

Curran, who was dropped on 33 by Tristan Stubbs, fell in the 19th over as Khaleel Ahmed struck on successive balls but Livingstone kept calm to bring up victory.

The spotlight remained on India's Pant, 26, after the wicketkeeper-batsman took the field as captain of Delhi after 14 months away from top level cricket.

"Really emotional time for me," Pant said at the toss after Delhi were invited to bat first.

"Just want to enjoy the moment."

Pant, an attacking left-handed batsman, got a standing ovation from the fans as he strode out to the middle after the fall of David Warner for 29.

Pant hit a flowing cover drive for a boundary in his brief stay before a slower delivery from Harshal Patel got him caught at backward point while attempting a ramp shot.

"Personally I was pretty nervous but you have to go through this when you enter the field," Pant said after the loss.

"This isn't the first time being nervous, but happy about that (return)."

Pant crashed his Mercedes SUV north of New Delhi before dawn in December 2022, suffering multiple injuries when the car rammed into a crash barrier, flipped over and caught fire.

He was rushed to hospital before being airlifted to Mumbai for further treatment and surgery.

Pant has been on an intensive rehabilitation programme since the crash left him with a damaged ligament in his right knee, a hurt wrist and ankle, and abrasions to his back.

He was replaced as skipper of Delhi Capitals by Warner of Australia and the team ended ninth in the 10-team table last year.

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