Mahela guides Delhi into playoffs
Delhi Daredevils 140 for 5 (Jayawardene 56*, Awana 3-22) beat Kings XI Punjab 136 for 8 (Hussey 40*, Yadav 3-21, Aaron 2-19) by five wickets
Scorecard and ball-by-ball details
Mahela Jayawardene's half-century may have been the slowest for Delhi Daredevils this season but it was compiled under trying circumstances and helped his team become the first side to qualify for the playoffs. Jayawardene's composure under pressure ensured that an incisive fast-bowling performance from Varun Aaron and Umesh Yadav, which restricted Kings XI Punjab to a middling total, was not in vain. With a place in the top four secure, Daredevils need to win only one of their last two games to secure No. 1 position.
Kings XI, on the other hand, needed victory tonight and in their remaining two games to be assured of a playoff spot. They cannot afford another defeat and will have to depend on net run-rate and on a permutation of results in other matches to qualify. Kings XI had persevered to make a below-par total competitive in their first clash against Daredevils - this season's 64th game - but did not have enough runs in the end.
Daredevils unleashed their quick bowlers, supported by a crack fielding unit, and a steady fall of wickets ensued after Kings XI chose to bat. They had made a brisk start but Aaron ended that with his first ball: Shaun Marsh caught glancing down the leg side. In his second over, Aaron had the free-swinging Mandeep Singh pulling to midwicket, where Virender Sehwag dived forward to take a low catch.
Kings XI were progressing well, though, and reached 50 for 2 in 6.2 overs. Yadav was the fifth bowler introduced, in the eighth over, and struck with his second ball. Nitin Saini drove loosely at a fast outswinger and Sehwag was stooping at first slip to catch the edge. After David Miller was run out by a direct hit from Pawan Negi at mid-on, Azhar Mahmood, the last of Kings XI's proper batsmen, was in as early as the 10th over. He stayed only until the 12th, when he hoisted Yadav towards long-off, where Irfan Pathan back-pedalled and caught the ball over his right shoulder on the edge of the boundary.
Kings XI were eventually in danger of being dismissed and David Hussey, who had been crying out for a reliable partner in vain, had to play within himself. He even turned down singles in the final two overs and dragged his team 136 for 8.
Hussey, however, had one really quick bowler in his attack too and Parvinder Awana rattled the Daredevils top order. He cut one delivery into Virender Sehwag and bowled him off the pad; he straightened two balls just outside off and induced edges from Venugopal Rao and Ross Taylor in the sixth over. In wretched form already, Taylor was recalled for this game in Roelof van der Merwe's spot but was out for a duck. Daredevils were 37 for 4. Awana's fellow seamers, Praveen Kumar and Azhar Mahmood, were economical too and Daredevils were only 42 after eight overs.
At this stage of Kings XI's innings, Sehwag had already used five bowlers. Hussey had used only three and had to bring in his fourth sooner rather than later. He gave Piyush Chawla the ninth over and watched Jayawardene cut the second ball for Daredevils' first boundary since the fourth over. Two balls later, Ojha stepped out and lofted the legspinner towards the straight boundary. The tide had begun to turn.
Daredevils needed 82 off 60 balls and Ojha continued to target Chawla, charging the bowler to loft consecutive straight sixes in the 11th over. Chawla also dropped a straightforward chance off Ojha at long-on, off Mahmood in the 13th over. Hussey, however, continued to persist with him and chose not to bowl himself.
There was irony as well. Chawla, who went for 33 in three overs, finished his spell with a maiden, while Awana, who had figures of 3-0-8-3, went for 14 in his last, the over that ended the game as a contest. Irfan Pathan played the shots, while Jayawardene watched in satisfaction, having been the glue that held Daredevils together.
George Binoy is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo