Karthik fifty gives Delhi renewed hope
Dinesh Karthik and the Delhi Daredevils' misfiring middle order came good when it mattered to clinch a thrilling five-wicket victory and keep their semi-finals hopes alive. Coming in with the team wobbling at 89 for 4, Karthik blitzed a classy 32-ball 56 to take Delhi past the Mumbai Indians' 176 with one ball to spare.
Mumbai are three points behind Delhi and two behind the Chennai Super Kings, who have a game against the lowly Deccan Chargers, and may need to win both their remaining matches, including a tough one away against table-topping Rajasthan Royals, to make it to the final four.
After Dwayne Smith took two-in-two in the eleventh over to put Mumbai on top, Karthik and Manoj Tiwary kept Delhi afloat with a 41-run stand. Karthik, using his feet to disconcert the slower bowlers, was the aggressor - he carved Smith past mid-off for four and then paddle-scooped him past short fine leg for another and then carted a Jaysuriya full toss into the crowd behind midwicket to ensure Delhi kept pace with the asking rate.
Tiwary was run-out for a well-made 36 following a mix-up. At that stage, 47 were needed off 30 as Karthik was joined by Farveez Maharoof, whose big-hitting has already helped Delhi recover from several middle-order collapses.
After a tidy over from Ashish Nehra, fifteen runs came off the next over from Dhawal Kulkarni, including a lovely six over backward square leg and an extra-cover drive for four. A down-the-pitch heave to the midwicket boundary off Jayasuriya and a delightful straight six off Andre Nel brought the equation down to eight from the final over.
Two singles came off the first three balls as the tension ratcheted up. Maharoof, though, kept his nerve and smashed the fourth ball to the midwicket boundary and cut the next one to point for four to bring up the victory and leave the home fans delirious.
Delhi will be even more satisfied with the win as their big guns fell early - Virender Sehwag provided a frenetic start with three fours and a rasping front-foot pull for six in the first over but was bowled by Nehra and Gautam Gambhir showed glimpses of the form that has made him the tournament's leading scorer before skying a catch to Smith at midwicket.
Shikhar Dhawan and Tiwary kept the required-rate in check collecting singles and punishing anything either wide or overpitched. Aided by some shoddy fielding, they had calmly progressed to 89 for 2 when Smith removed Dhawan and Tillakaratne Dilshan off successive deliveries to bring the Man of the Match Karthik to the crease.
Before Karthik's intervention, the leading candidate for Man of the Match was Jayasuriya. His assault gave Mumbai an explosive start to their innings but his team-mates failed to build on it and a fightback, led by Yo Mahesh who snared four wickets, from Delhi restricted them. Jayasuriya, typically scoring heavily square of the wicket, took Brett Geeves to task - a couple of leg-side boundaries in his first over were followed by an effortless slice over backward point for six and a powerful across-the-line shot past long-on for four.
Mahesh was brought into the attack but two towering sixes and an edge past the wicketkeeper for four kept the run-rate galloping. Delhi's semi-final hopes were further dented when Karthik, standing up to Maharoof, missed a leg-side stumping with Tendulkar overbalancing. The next ball was disdainfully swatted for six by Jayasuriya and the score read 70 for no loss after seven.
The breakthrough came when Tendulkar inside-edged Mahesh onto his stumps and, with Maharoof sending down a clever mix of slower balls and yorkers, the brakes were applied. Amit Mishra, whose googlies the batsmen found hard to read, kept the runs in check but a poor over from Geeves released the pressure. Just as Mumbai seemed to have regained their momentum, they were again pegged back by Mahesh, who removed Smith. Mishra then picked up the big wicket of Jayasuriya, who perished attempting his sixth six and when the hard-hitting Abhishek Nayar fell four balls later, Mumbai had slipped to 114 for 4.
It required Robin Uthappa's stunning 23-ball 46 to lift them to a competitive score. Uthappa, who has flickered through this tournament, combined some delicate glides past third man with his signature paddle sweeps as well as some full-blooded blows over midwicket and long-on to plunder 31 runs off the last two overs.
Uthappa's late hitting, though, was overshadowed by Karthik's and the win means Delhi will make it to the semi-finals if Chennai or Mumbai lose any of their remaining games.
Siddarth Ravindran is an editorial assistant at Cricinfo