Gautam Gambhir stars in tense Delhi win
Delhi Daredevils 146 for 5 (Gambhir 72, Manhas 30*, Sreesanth 2-24) beat Kings XI Punjab 142 for 9 (Bopara 56, Nannes 2-12, Maharoof 2-37) by five wickets
Scorecard and ball-by-ball details
How they were out
In his first match as IPL captain, Gautam Gambhir followed up inspired moves in the field with an old-fashioned innings full of sensible strokeplay and saved a glittering batting line-up the blushes in a straightforward chase of 143 on a flat pitch. It was thanks to disconcerting bowling from Dirk Nannes and timely big wickets for Farveez Maharoof that Delhi were chasing a paltry total, but Gambhir had to counter the regularly falling wickets and rising required rate to take his team home.
Sreesanth, who somehow nudged and edged nine runs in the final over to give himself something to bowl at, made the most of the extra few runs at Kings XI Punjab's disposal. He swung the ball beautifully, taking out Virender Sehwag and Tillakaratne Dilshan in his first over, and gave away just 15 in his first spell of three overs.
While sizeable contributions from the other end didn't arrive, Gambhir was not going to contribute to Punjab's cause. He ran hard, hit only one shot in the air before the six in the 19th over, never let the required rate reach unmanageable proportions, and got out with only three runs required. The main feature of the innings was the cut shot: the bat face opened at just the right time, at just the right angle, playing around with the point and third-man fieldsmen.
From 10 for 2 he took Delhi to 45 for 3 with AB de Villiers for company, and to 79 for 4 with Dinesh Karthik. By the time Karthik fell, Gambhir had paced himself to 37 off 34, but 64 required off 46 was just about entering the tricky territory. In the next over, though, Gambhir took 15 runs off five Ramesh Powar deliveries to turn the game Delhi's way. Nine of those came off shots either side of deep point.
A two-run 17th over by Yuvraj Singh gave Punjab an outside chance, with 26 required off the last three, but when Irfan Pathan dropped Mithun Manhas in the 19th over, it was all over for Punjab. That Gambhir batted through the innings meant he ran up and down the pitch 71 times. A cramping Gambhir towards the end wasn't what Delhi would have envisaged after a commendable fielding effort.
Nannes was too quick, Maharoof too opportunistic, and Delhi's fielders too alert for Ravi Bopara's 48-ball 56. Regular wickets punctuated Punjab's innings. Nannes went for just 12 runs in his four overs, and Maharoof claimed the big scalps of Kumar Sangakkara and Yuvraj Singh.
Bopara got support from Irfan - out of India's preliminary squad for World Twenty20 but fit enough to start for Punjab - during a 60-run fifth-wicket partnership, but they would have always felt it not enough.
Sharp fielding, Nannes' awkward bounce, and Maharoof's capitalising on the pressure left the lower middle order with too much to do. Manhas started Punjab's slide with a direct hit to remove Manvinder Bisla. Sangakkara, Punjab's new captain, came out counterattacking, but Gambhir persisted with Maharoof despite his 18-run fourth over.
Maharoof repaid the faith by removing Sangakkara and Yuvraj in his next over, both to softish dismissals. Sangakkara flicked him straight to short fine leg, and Gambhir himself took a back-pedalling catch at mid-off to get rid of Yuvraj.
That it was the last delivery of the Powerplay could have had something to do with Yuvraj's shot selection. Mahela Jayawardene, though, edged the first delivery after the Powerplay, a straight angling delivery from Pradeep Sangwan.
Bopara and Irfan applied themselves, also enjoyed some good fortune through edged boundaries to the third-man area, but another inspired move from Gambhir started the second collapse for Punjab. Tillakaratne Dilshan was given the ball in the 14th over, and Irfan - responsible until then - jumped out of the crease and missed a straight delivery.
Mohammad Kaif was stumped to a wide flighted delivery from Amit Mishra, and Bopara hit a low full toss straight to deep square leg. At 113 for 7 in the 16th over, Nannes and Maharoof against the tail was always going to be an unfair contest.
Sidharth Monga is a staff writer at Cricinfo