Hayden turns big chase into cakewalk
India, say hello to the Mongoose, the shorter, thicker bat with the longer handle. You already knew Matthew Hayden, but might have forgotten him momentarily after his ordinary start this year. On Friday, the two combined in a deadly manner. Hayden smacked 93 off 43 balls to almost singlehandedly chase down Delhi Daredevils' imposing target. Delhi's innings featured a similarly dominant effort. If Hayden scored 93 of the 142 while at crease, Virender Sehwag pummelled 74 out of 103.
That Hayden's effort was longer meant Chennai Super Kings prevailed in the battle of superb fielding. Three good catches from Chennai's stand-in captain, Suresh Raina, and a spectacular effort at the boundary from Justin Kemp, a near replica of his ICL catch, kept Delhi under 200. Tillakaratne Dilshan took a blinder charging in from long-on to deny Hayden a century, and Chennai a jitterless finish.
Delhi, and their new captain Dinesh Karthik, will wonder if they brought Dirk Nannes back too late - in the 13th over - and why the bouncer was not tried against the Mongoose. It was not as if Hayden necessarily needed the new bat to cause wreckage.
By the time he called out for the Mongoose, Hayden had already smashed four boundaries off his first nine balls. That may have given him the confidence to call for the newest beast in town. It was not as if Hayden necessarily needed the new bat to hit the five fours and seven sixes that followed in the next 34 deliveries he faced.
His hitting was so clean that it perhaps didn't need the rumoured 20% extra bat power on most of the occasions. Only the second of three sixes in Dilshan's over - the eighth of the innings - was mis-hit, but the ball managed to sail over wide long-on. That six also brought up his fifty, off 24 balls, and by the end of the over, he had reached 61, and Chennai 85.
More down-the-ground carnage followed in the next four overs, and Hayden had reached 87 off 37 with Chennai needing just 57 off 48, when Nannes was called back. A tight over later, Hayden hit Amit Mishra powerfully down the ground, and Dilshan ran in and caught it inches off the ground. Would it have carried had it been hit with a normal bat?
Albie Morkel and Justin Kemp failed to contribute much, and the onus fell on Raina after Chennai lost three wickets for 27 runs. However, he kept picking up boundaries - six of them - whenever the equation started to look tricky, and his unbeaten 49 carried Chennai home with five balls to spare.
With the way Sehwag was going, though, Raina's team was looking at a much bigger target. His 38-ball 74 came as easy as his strolled singles, but Chennai managed to create and latch on to more catching opportunities to slow down Delhi just about enough in the last eight overs.
Sehwag's innings took about as much time as it took David Warner and Dilshan to struggle and get out, managing 21 off 32 between them. Sehwag was in the scoring zone right from the first ball he faced, flicking it neatly to midwicket. He found the middle of the bat and the gaps started appearing from the second ball on. In the first eight overs, he displayed almost the whole array of effective Twenty20 shots: hits down the ground, through extra cover, over wide long-on and midwicket, and the square-cut.
The first over he faced from Muttiah Muralitharan, though, was the highlight. He came down the track first ball, Murali bowled flat, he checked his shot. Anticipated a flat delivery next up, he stayed back and opened the face to beat short third man. The standout shot came later in the over when he waited even more and took the ball from in front of stumps, guiding it to the left of short third this time. By the end of that over, eighth of the innings, Sehwag had scored 61 off 28, out of the team's total of 79.
Just in time, Kemp produced the moment of inspiration, jumping at the right time and taking a one-handed catch behind his body at the long-off boundary. Immediately before and after that, Raina produced two good catches to get rid of Dilshan and AB de Villiers.
With 7.3 overs still to go, there was time enough for either side to win or lose. Although the balance was retained, the 78 that Karthik, Mithun Manhas and Rajat Bhatia added proved to be inadequate when compared to Hayden and his Mongoose.
Sidharth Monga is a staff writer at Cricinfo