Confident Delhi thrive on pressure
The last seven Deccan Chargers wickets fell for 12 runs. Call it a choke, but they were gleefully strangled by an immensely confident Delhi Daredevils side who have lost just one close game yet. Deccan should have won this but under pressure, with a semi-final spot up for grabs, they depended too much on Adam Gilchrist and Andrew Symonds.
The moment that captured Delhi's confidence was in the last ball of the 19th over and came from an unlikely source. Chaminda Vaas, Deccan's last recognised hitter, ran for a single that would allow him to retain the strike for the last over. Amit Mishra, not known for his electric fielding, charged to the ball and picked it up. Vaas was still short of the crease.
Normally, in these tense situations, the fielder doesn't go for the direct hit to avoid the risk of an overthrow. It's a thin line between bravado and foolhardiness. Mishra went for the throw and hit the stumps. Vaas was just home but that's not the point. It was the sign of a player thriving on the confidence derived from a team used to winning. It was seen through the evening; Delhi's walk on the thin line.
Dinesh Karthik entered with the score at 103 for 4 in nearly 14 overs before he played a delightful cameo to push Delhi to a healthy score. And while defending the total two men from the domestic circuit, one a novice and the other an experienced player, nailed Deccan. Both Pradeep Sangwan and Rajat Bhatia performed under immense pressure.
Sangwan came on when Gilchrist was going berserk, threatening to kill the game in a blink. He has dismissed Rohit Sharma before in domestic cricket; he has spoken about Rohit's tendency to be late in shifting his weight forward. Today he did it again. With a short extra-cover in place, he lured Rohit into a fatal uppish cover drive. Just before that he had kept T Suman on a leash before taking him out on the attempt to break free. He kept his head and kept things really simple. Sehwag brought him on again in the 11th over and he struck, bowling Gilchrist with a full delivery. It wasn't a sensational delivery but it was not short, it wasn't overpitched and it wasn't wide; it wasn't anything that Gilchrist would have dispatched without having to stretch himself. And it did the trick.
And Rajat Bhatia came on at the end to complete the job that Sangwan started. Again, there was confidence on display and the cool head that kept things simple. "I was confident that something will happen," he said later. "It was just a mind game. I wanted to bowl yorkers or slower ones when the opportunity comes." He did both.
Andrew Symonds was on the rampage and had almost taken Deccan home. Just 24 runs were needed in 17 balls when Bhatia sensed the chance to slip in a slower one. Symonds was fooled enough to go for the flick early and was cleaned up. And Bhatia removed Dwayne Smith with another slower one. When things are tight, you go for your main shot. Smith's is the slog sweep. Last night, when Ross Taylor ran amok against Kolkata Knight Riders with his slog sweep, they didn't bowl slower ones. Bhatia didn't make the same mistake. Smith went for his heave and missed. The game hurtled to the climax.
Ashish Nehra, who had leaked runs during Gilchrist's onslaught, kept his cool and fired in a bouncer at Venugopal Rao who was surprised enough to glove it. And Nehra threw in a direct hit to get rid of RP Singh next ball to shove Hyderabad further into the abyss. Bhatia made sure they didn't crawl out with two more wickets in the last over. If Delhi can retain their cool they can do more than enter the semi-finals. The danger of overconfidence will stalk them, though. It's going to be interesting to watch their progress.
Sriram Veera is a staff writer at Cricinfo