Stone throwing mars Delhi's win
Less than a day after Glasgow Rangers supporters went on the rampage in Manchester, it was the Delhi Daredevils' turn to reflect on moronic behaviour from so-called fans. The game was tantalisingly poised, with the Deccan Chargers needing 24 from 11 balls and the in-form Venugopal Rao on strike. At that moment, Virender Sehwag ran in from the boundary to speak to Brian Jerling, the umpire. There was a lengthy delay, with no one quite sure what was going on. Only later, at the post-match press conference, did the reason come forth.
"It's a matter of shame that something like this happened in Delhi," said Sehwag. "And that too a stone thrown at a Delhi player." When asked about the identity of the player, he said: "Virender Sehwag". Perhaps the imbecile who threw the projectile was grumpy about zeroes in consecutive matches, including Thursday night, and he clearly didn't have the powers of recall to remember the thrilling knocks that had inspired Delhi to victory earlier in the competition.
The sordid incident wiped the smile off Sehwag's face, though there was considerable satisfaction at ending a four-match drought. With three more home games to play on a surface that suits their hard-hitting batsmen, Delhi are once again in the semi-final shake-up.
As well as the batsmen played today though, it was the bowlers that pulled this one out of the fire. The headlines on Friday may well be about Amit Mishra's hat-trick, but no self-respecting bowler is likely to boast about the scalps of Ravi Teja, Pragyan Ojha and RP Singh. Instead, Mishra will take immense pride in the two early interventions that utterly changed the complexion of the game.
Despite the loss of Adam Gilchrist, brilliantly caught by Tillakaratne Dilshan off the bowling of his old comrade, Glenn McGrath; Shahid Afridi and Herschelle Gibbs appeared intent on showing an increasingly glum crowd just what they were capable of, racing to 50 from just 4.1 overs. Even the redoubtable McGrath got a pasting, and Delhi were punch-drunk and reeling when Sehwag tossed the ball to Mishra.
The first delivery revealed the ugly side of Afridi. For all the boom-boom strokeplay, shot selection has never been his strength, and a impetuous hoick was sliced behind point. With Gautam Gambhir off the field, Delhi's fielding was boosted by the presence of AB de Villiers, and his catch, while running backwards, turned the tide.
In Mishra's next over, Gibbs, who had briefly played like the man of Wanderers-175 fame rather than the IPL imposter, charged forward like the Light Brigade. And despite beautiful cameos from Rohit Sharma and Rao, that was effectively that. Rohit might well think about the wisdom of playing the worst shot in the game, the infamous Misbah scoop, to a die-straight ball from Farveez Maharoof, while Rao once again failed to take his team over the line after some thrilling four-and-six hitting.
Delhi's batting still resembles Chesty Morgan of 1970s fame, but after a couple of games of underachievement, the top-order once again did the business. Gambhir is fast becoming a master of this cricket genre, playing to his strengths with genuine aplomb. He strikes the cross-bat shots as well as any Indian, and his footwork to the spinners was also hugely impressive.
Sehwag's blob didn't hurt them either, with Shikhar Dhawan once again showing off his maturity and tremendous bat speed. Whether it was hustling the ball through the covers or whipping it off the pads to fine leg, he struck it with such a punch that even fielders in the vicinity didn't bother to chase. The quick thrashes from Maharoof and Dilshan at the end were a nice little bonus.
Gilchrist laughingly called this losing run "good for the soul", but he wasn't smiling when he spoke about Delhi's use of substitute fielders. Mohammad Asif, who looked well short of form and fitness, went off and then came back on to bowl, prompting Gilchrist to say: "I think I should express my concern. If a bowler's fit enough to bowl, he's fit enough to field." He cited the catches taken by de Villiers and Shoaib Malik [who came on for Asif], but his insinuations about Delhi bending the rules evoked a sharp response from Sehwag.
"It was an external injury [split webbing on his hand] that Asif had," said Sehwag. "You can check the rules. When blood is being spilled, the umpires allow you to go off and then come back on. If they have no problem, neither should Gilchrist."
That pretty much summed up the mood of the evening. Deccan, down, out and lost even for good excuses, Delhi's sense of relief soured by the stone-throwing buffoon. Some days, no one wins.