Deccan's tactics deliver first victory
One delivery summed up Deccan Chargers' terrific bowling performance. Pragyan Ojha had just been dumped over long-off for six by Justin Kemp. Two balls later, the left-arm spinner had his man. Ojha wasn't afraid to flight it again, slower this time. Kemp sashayed down the track, attempting another tee-off, but was deceived by the change of pace and the length, which wasn't right to loft or drive. The ball turned, beat the edge and landed safely in Adam Gilchrist's gloves for an easy stumping, a classic orthodox left-arm spinner's trap.
A combination of bold captaincy and intelligent bowling won Deccan the game. Andrew Symonds and Herschelle Gibbs gave them 190 to defend but Chennai boasted a formidable batting line-up. When Deccan began their defence, two experienced hands, one retired the other on the verge of it, combined to deal body blows to Chennai's chase.
Chaminda Vaas has proved a surprise package despite his experience in international cricket. He had underperformed in seven games during the first two IPL seasons. Not in this one though. A double-wicket maiden in the opening over against Kolkata Knight Riders was followed by figures of 3 for 21 tonight, including the wicket of the dangerous Matthew Hayden. Whether his future with Sri Lanka undergoes similar revival remains to be seen, but Vaas is enjoying this game as much as his captain, the retired Gilchrist, whose intensity and involvement helped Deccan earn their first points.
Gilchrist's captaincy was different today: he used unconventional fields, made bold bowling changes, and gesticulated urgently to keep his fielders alert. The performances of Chennai offspinners, R Ashwin and Muttiah Muralitharan, convinced Gilchrist that spin was the way to go and he deployed it as early as possible. His decision to give T Suman the 18th over against Kolkata - where he leaked 16 runs - was one of the factors that had cost Deccan the match, but Gilchrist wasn't afraid to experiment again. He tossed the ball to the part-timer Rohit Sharma and not the specialist Ojha in the second over. Hayden biffed the first three deliveries straight to fielders and the fifth for six, but Rohit would have settled for four dot balls.
Gilchrist made four bowling changes in the first nine overs and didn't allow Chennai's batsmen to settle, forcing them to review their plans. His field placements during the Powerplay trumped those of Dhoni's. Realising the futility of a slip, Gilchrist used a short cover instead to plug the off side. As batsmen tried to jab the ball past the infield, the fielder was agile enough to slide and save runs.
His tactics were backed up by Vaas, who made hitting through the line difficult and took three important wickets. A frustrated M Vijay was beaten by movement and lost leg stump after a failed charge. Suresh Raina gifted his wicket with a rash shot but the crucial blow was Hayden's dismissal.
Gilchrist's field placing was significant. Standing up to the stumps to prevent Hayden from striding down the track, he pushed first slip deep. The next ball from Vaas was full outside the off stump, and Hayden attempted something different - paddle scooping into RP Singh's hands at short fine leg. The packed off side field had made Hayden look for gaps on the leg and his execution failed him. Vaas then sent down five successive dot balls and completed his second wicket maiden of the tournament.
Following Hayden's exit for 17, an impatient S Badrinath made room against Ojha and picked out the fielder at deep extra cover, an effective position for a batsman trying to loft a left-arm spinner with the turn. Gilchrist's tactics were spot on and Deccan had already snatched four wickets within the first six overs.
Four overs later, Kemp too was on his way. Deccan had let Kolkata off the hook, after they had them in strife at 31 for 4, and ensured they didn't repeat mistake tonight. They also exposed a chink in the Chennai batting. The backup for Hayden and Raina - should they fail - isn't as stable as it looks on paper. And Dhoni can only do so much on his own.
Kanishkaa Balachandran is a sub-editor at Cricinfo