Edwards' fury caps hard-fought game
Yesterday in Durban two teams down on their luck and even lower on confidence did their best to usher the other to victory. But if the clash between Bangalore Royal Challengers and Kolkata Knight Riders was the ultimate relegation dogfight - give or take the absence in the IPL of a second tier - then today's clash at Centurion between Deccan Chargers and Delhi Daredevils, first and second in the table before the game, oozed confidence and entitlement. And, in the case of Fidel Edwards, who reacted furiously when wided by both umpires in the closing stages of the Delhi chase, a fair degree of spleen too.
Just when it looked like one of the sides had edged in front, the other fought back. The ebb and flow, apparently a redundant concept in Twenty20 cricket, was compelling. At 53 for 4 in the 10th over, Deccan were blowing it. But their batting line-up - today without VVS Laxman, dropped after making 19 runs in four innings - is way more than the sum of its two openers, and a thrilling 48 in 28 balls from Dwayne Smith, too often in his career the cameo prince, gave them something to bowl at.
When Gautam Gambhir missed a sweep off Shoaib Ahmed, Delhi were 49 for 3 and the momentum remained with Deccan. But there are few feistier cricketers than Dinesh Karthik and few who are more grievously under-rated than Tillakaratne Dilshan. Together, they added 79 in 62 balls. Even then, Pragyan Ojha conceded only four runs off the 18th over while removing Karthik, and it needed a loss of control from Edwards to end Deccan's record of being the tournament's only unbeaten team.
Edwards' reaction to being wided for a bouncer by Amiesh Saheba, then for a leg-side delivery by the New Zealand umpire Gary Baxter, summed up the mood of competitive zeal in which the game took place and should be used in evidence whenever it is argued that overseas players feel no great allegiance to their Indian franchises.
Edwards will be lucky to escape a dissent charge after throwing a small hissy fit at Saheba - Kevin Pietersen was found guilty for far less - and following up with a look of sheer disbelief when Baxter extended his arms for a leg-side delivery to Dilshan that deserved the call. When Dilshan then pulled a no-ball for four before smiting the winning six, Edwards irascibly grabbed his sunglasses off Baxter, stood by himself for a few moments, then stormed off without shaking the batsmen's hands. If he is still in this mood come Wednesday at Lord's, England could be in trouble.
"We all want passion," said his captain Adam Gilchrist afterwards. "Fidel was getting frustrated at a few line-ball calls that he thought the umpires were a bit tough on. But in the heat of the battle he got a fired up, though he didn't overstep the mark. There were a few little verbals here and there but it was nothing untoward. It was great passion and shows that everyone is very serious about this.
"Yes, the behaviour of the players is the captain's responsibility, but I just wanted Fidel to focus and try to zero in on his bowling and not be put off by any other distractions. Then again, I don't have a perfect record myself."
Yesterday, the main emotions were relief (for Pietersen and Bangalore) and mild despair (for Brendon McCullum and Kolkata). A bit of raw fury in a game that seesawed will do a tournament sometimes accused of contrived emotion no harm at all.