Delhi's middle order an Achilles heel no more
It may have been Farveez Maharoof who struck the winning runs, but this was the match in which Dinesh Karthik and Manoj Tiwary finally justified the exorbitant sums splashed out for them at the IPL auction in February. Tiwary and Karthik cost US$1.2 million between them, more than thrice what was paid for the incomparable Glenn McGrath. Till Saturday night, neither had repaid the investment, with Tiwary aggregating 68 from five innings, and Karthik 79 from six.
When they came together, the Delhi Daredevil's reply was in disarray. Dwayne Smith had taken two wickets in two balls, and the bulwarks of the batting - Virender Sehwag, Gautam Gambhir and Shikhar Dhawan - were all pondering failure back in the dug-out. The middle order had been so unconvincing throughout the competition that even illustrious names like AB de Villiers and Shoaib Malik had been dumped, leaving the two Indians and two Sri Lankans to pull off an arduous task.
One of them, Tillakaratne Dilshan, lasted just one ball, but the other three were outstanding in a game that Delhi dared not lose. Tiwary and Karthik added 41 from 25 balls to keep the crowd on tenterhooks, and Karthik and Maharoof then smashed 49 from just 29 balls to see Delhi home with one ball to spare.
Tiwary's 36 contained some lovely strokes, and only poor communication in a cauldron-like atmosphere ended the partnership. But instead of letting the situation get to him, Karthik knuckled down to play the sort of innings that he had at the Wanderers in India's first Twenty20 game. His strokeplay was magnificent. Sanath Jayasuriya and Dhawal Kulkarni were clouted over square leg for six, and Andre Nel's evening was ruined by a glorious straight loft.
You had to feel for Kulkarni. One of Mumbai's best bowlers in the competition, he had started with two tidy overs for 11 runs. But entrusted with the task of bowling the 17th over, he wilted, and the 15 runs he conceded probably swung the game. After that, Karthik and Maharoof could work the ball around the field without taking undue risks.
"It was one of my lucky days," said Karthik after the game. "I got away with a lot of shots. Our middle order was struggling, and to have won the game for the team is a fantastic feeling."
Mumbai will be left to reflect on a batting display that lost steam after Jayasuriya and Sachin Tendulkar had set off like the Blue Streak. One of the great joys of the IPL is that it gives you the opportunity to watch such individuals on the same side. With their contrasting styles, Jayasuriya and Tendulkar were like Frazier and Ali, one the heavy slugger and the other all timing and finesse.
It was the slugger's day today, and Delhi have Amit Mishra to thank for their continued interest in this competition. Having been smashed way over midwicket in his previous over, Mishra showed great composure and skill to beat Jayasuriya in flight and have him caught on the rope at long-off.
|With their contrasting styles, Jayasuriya and Tendulkar were like Frazier and Ali, one the heavy slugger and the other all timing and finesse|
It was an excellent spell, supplemented beautifully by another strong showing from Yo Mahesh, who came back from a 17-run pounding in his opening over to scalp four wickets. On a day when McGrath took some stick and the other import, Brett Geeves, was pummelled, Yo Mahesh's revival was critical in limiting Mumbai to a middling total.
Robin Uthappa played superbly for his 46, but you had to question the wisdom of including Geeves after he'd spent so many games out. "I decided to give him a chance," said Sehwag with typical insouciance later. "Our fourth or fifth bowlers have been going for runs in every game, so I thought I would try him. He took the crucial wicket of Abhishek Nayar."
He also went for 50 in four overs. Being Tasmania's Player of the Year is one thing, but the IPL stage is far bigger, especially when you have to front up to a monster like Jayasuriya. Through it all though, Geeves and the others got fantastic support from a voluble crowd, and it was certainly the first time that many of us had seen a Tendulkar dismissal celebrated so fervently outside of Pakistan.
Their Achilles heel of a middle order has kept the flames of hope burning in Delhi, and left Mumbai [or Chennai] on the verge of elimination. Neither of those teams has any margin for error now, and both will reflect on recent shoddiness that cost them winnable games.
By the end, with the pressure unbearable and the humidity stifling, Karthik said he had to cope with some dizziness and vomiting. But thanks to his efforts and those of Maharoof and Tiwary, it was the Mumbai Indians who left the Feroz Shah Kotla with that sick, sinking feeling.