Bangalore lose the big moments
One year on, Bangalore Royal Challengers have spent a lot of money treading water. Now, as then, they have lost four of their first five IPL matches. Now, as then, the correlation between spending and success has been badly skewed. The extra ingredient of Kevin Pietersen's increasingly tricky return to top-level captaincy after he lost the England job earlier in the year has added an irresistible subplot. But Pietersen will play just one more game before flying home, leaving Bangalore a further eight group matches to avoid humiliation. On this evidence, it will be tricky.
To win a game of Twenty20, teams need to win the big moments. Since humbling Rajasthan Royals on the opening day of the tournament, Bangalore have developed a habit of losing them. Today's match summed the tendency up, and no moment was bigger than the 17th over of the Delhi reply, which began with the Daredevils needing 43 off 24 balls with seven wickets in hand.
Undeterred by the pull for six with which Dinesh Karthik had greeted Jacques Kallis' return to the attack two overs earlier, Pietersen asked Kallis to try again. This was questionable at the very least. Kallis' career Twenty20 economy-rate is almost 10. In last year's IPL he reduced that to 9, but was still the costliest of Bangalore's regular bowlers. His stock ball in Tests, the widish away-swinger, is eminently hittable in Twenty20. Even so, Pietersen asked him to try again.
The first two balls yielded three runs, which was fine. The third was well outside off-stump, but swung just inside the mark umpires use to determine wides. To Kallis's horror, Sudhir Asnani disagreed and signalled a wide, at which point it all went horribly wrong. Tillakaratne Dilshan, surely one of the world's most under-rated batsmen, whacked the next ball over wide long-on and out of the ground, before Mithun Manhas lifted Kallis over the head of Robin Uthappa at long-off and away for four.
Uthappa should have been standing on the boundary, but worse was to come as Manhas drove Kallis's next ball wide of mid-on, only for KP Appanna, the left-arm spinner who had earlier done well to concede only 24 off his four overs, to turn a single into a boundary with a mis-field. From then on in, Delhi couldn't lose. In fact, they've now won three out of three. (Kallis, incidentally, has figures in this tournament of 11-0-135-1, which is even worse than Andrew Flintoff.)
"The plans that we wanted to do, we executed," said Pietersen afterwards. "We just let ourselves down with the [Uthappa] catch that went for four, and another one went down to the boundary that went for four. Some of those don't help you in situations like this. Fielding definitely cost us today."
Bangalore had blown it with the bat too. Pietersen has not played as well as he did today all tournament and together with Ross Taylor was busy dragging Bangalore back from the rubble of 10 for 2. Twice Pietersen advanced down the track to loft a six over long-on - once off Ashish Nehra, once off Daniel Vettori - and when he swept Vettori for four, an imposing total looked on the cards.
Next ball, though, he tried the switch-hit and was bowled - just as Vettori bowled him during a World Twenty20 match in Durban in September 2007. Taylor went in the next over, the first after the time-out, and Bangalore had to settle for a gettable 149. "It might have been the wrong option, but that's how I play," said Pietersen after his otherwise sparkling 25-ball 37. "I've played like that for five years in international cricket and I ain't changing now."
Pietersen flies home on Wednesday after the game in Durban against Kolkata Knight Riders. Defeat then, and his contention today that he has found the IPL to be "absolutely fantastic" may be tested to the full.
Victor Brown is a freelance cricket writer