Teamwork works for Lions
A superior performance in the field saw the Lions cull the last of the IPL teams, the so-called kings of the twenty-over cricket, from the Champions League. Delhi Daredevils made things tough for themselves by leaving out Mahela Jayawardene, batting Irfan Pathan up the order and sending in Ajit Agarkar too low down. But those are three factors.
Dropping three catches, misfielding with regularity and having an opposition who held on to almost everything that came their way are more pronounced reasons to lose. And that's how Daredevils maintained their record of never winning a semi-final. The word almost is there because the Lions put down Kevin Pietersen on 43. At the time, it was a potential match turner but the catch Thami Tsolekile took to dismiss Pietersen seven runs later ended up being the real pivot point.
It showed what the Lions are all about - team work. Where one errs, others will compensate and Man of the Match Neil McKenzie said as much when he admitted he would have given the award to the bowling unit as a whole.
In reality it could have gone to the whole squad, because a victory achieved in this way can only be credited to everyone involved and not a specific person. When early wickets fell, Gulam Bodi and McKenzie were on hand to rescue them. In other matches, Quinton de Kock has stepped up or Jean Symes has hit the winning runs.
Bodi has been a constant though, although came under criticism for his sluggish innings in the Lions' victory over Mumbai Indians. Then, he saw out a Lasith Malinga maiden while the required-rate climbed. He later explained it as being part of the team's strategy to apply damage-control against Malinga.
Ever since, he has been among the batsmen of the tournament. Even though he has a preference for on-side shots, Bodi has managed to score more runs than anyone else in the competition and at far better strike-rate than in the first match.
He has been the anchor in the absence of form for Alviro Petersen and an aggressor alongside Neil McKenzie, who by his own admission likes to take some time to get in. Although de Kock may become a star attraction in the mould of some of the big names, the Lions don't have that one person on whom expectation rests on. They have to do the job together.
With Dirk Nannes and Sohail Tanvir in the bowling attack, there is some celebrity factor. But they do not just swan in and flaunt about, Petersen has credited them with mentoring some of the younger bowlers. That showed tonight. Chris Morris was pacy and used the steep bounce to ensure Daredevil's batsmen were never comfortable against him. Aaron Phangiso's reputation has only enhanced as he joined Azhar Mahmood as the second highest-wicket taker of the tournament and will have the chance to surpass him in the final.
For Daredevils, though, the journey ends here, in a fashion that will only further increase the questions swirling around the IPL teams' under-performance in this event. The most noticeable issue facing them in the build-ups is that they are at an immediate disadvantage because they do not play as unit as often the domestic teams of other countries. All four of them identified it as a concern but said they are used to gelling quickly and will hope to do so again, even though it may prove more challenging in foreign conditions.
Three of the four only got that right towards the end of their campaign. Initially, they seemed to struggle on the bouncy pitches and when the likes of Chennai Super Kings and Kolkata Knight Riders had adjusted, it was too late.
Daredevils did not have that worry. Their potent pace attack was right at home in South Africa (where one of them, Morne Morkel, is from) but they were the team the schedule was most unkind to. Two of their four group stages matches were washed out. While there were five matches that did not have a result, Daredevils were the only team involved in two of them and the only one whose weather affected games did not have a single ball bowled.
That meant that Daredevils did not play competitive cricket for a stretch of eight days. After featuring on the opening day, they were due to have their next match six days later against Auckland but the rain meant it was more than a week before they played again.
David Warner, though, did not play at all. He was benched so that Mahela Jayawardene could open with Virender Sehwag. But the Sri Lankan captain opted to sit out when "horses for courses," were required and he thought that Daredevils would benefit from an explosive start.
That he did not think Sehwag could do that alone was justified by his actions off the first ball Sehwag faced. Sehwag did not score a run but Warner made good his selection and managed a quick 21. Besides Pietersen, the rest of the batting just could not get it together but may have had less to do had they held on in the field.
Firdose Moonda is ESPNcricinfo's South Africa correspondent