Needing an asking rate of just over seven runs per over, Delhi Daredevils were undoubtedly the favourites to clinch the game against the home side, Kings XI Punjab, at Mohali. However, a double strike by the often erratic S. Sreesanth, sending back the batting side’s two most dangerous hitters, Virender Sehwag and Tillakaratne Dilshan, meant Punjab were in with a chance.
The impact of those deadly blows saw them take the game into the very last over. However, an authoritative half-century by Daredevils skipper Gautam Gambhir ensured that Delhi had their noses in front for most part of the chase.
Gambhir played a typical captain’s knock, forging three fruitful partnerships with AB de Villiers, Dinesh Karthik and finally with Mithun Manhas, who eventually hit the winning runs. Though de Villiers and Karthik were not able to clear the field at will, they pitched in by giving Gambhir most of the strike on a wicket that wasn’t the easiest to score on, in particular against the spinners. And here is where Gambhir’s skills came in very handy.
He used deft touches and manoeuvred the ball around in the gaps smartly to find the boundaries. And occasionally when he stepped out, he ensured that the ball found the middle of the bat. Even though Gambhir was dismissed when Delhi where within striking distance of victory, he had done enough to see his side through safely.
On a day when his brother Yusuf became a hero for Rajasthan Royals even in a losing cause, Irfan Pathan ended up playing villain for his side. The skier he dropped at long-off, that of Mithun Manhas, could have easily given Punjab a window of opportunity. The target was still a little distance away and the bowlers had just managed to build up some pressure with a few precious dot balls. Unfortunately for the home team, Irfan could not hang on to the chance, probably losing it in the lights and letting it slip through his palms.
That definitely wasn’t the turning point of the match through. In hindsight, it came much earlier when Punjab were asked to take first strike by Delhi’s new skipper, Gambhir. Of course, Punjab also had a new skipper in Kumar Sangakkara. However, only one captain could have luck on his side on this day and that was to be Gambhir.
Dirk Nannes put in a superb first spell, bowling with extreme pace. The left-arm pacer was consistently pitching deliveries short of a length and the Punjab batsmen had no answer to it. The batting side did not do themselves any favour either when Manvinder Bisla ran himself out unnecessarily. Farveez Maharoof went for a few runs. More importantly though, he managed to strike telling blows by scalping Kumar Sangakkara and Yuvraj Singh cheaply. If that wasn’t bad enough, Punjab lost Mahela Jayawardene as well pretty soon, which put them in extreme trouble.
Ravi Bopara batted sensibly and in the company of Irfan Pathan helped Punjab reach a respectable total. However, as it turned out, the damage had already done. And despite a disciplined bowling effort, Punjab could not undo Gambhir’s good work.
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