Delhi crumble on crumbling Kotla pitch
If the batsmen were looking for trouble, boy, they came to the right place. The Feroz Shah Kotla track was back to its Champions League shenanigans, and Kings XI Punjab, having seen Delhi Daredevils fail to read its nature soon enough, kept their heads in what seemed a meagre chase on paper, also keeping alive their remotest of outside chance to make it to the semis. Only 21 boundaries were hit in 38.2 overs on a pitch that offered variable bounce and appreciable turn right from the first ball, and whose slowness made it hard to time shots.
The Punjab bowlers were smart and accurate, two of Delhi's big three were consumed by silly running, the others collapsed, and hence the below-par total. While Punjab were sensible in the chase, they couldn't create a comfortable gap between their run rate and the required rate until Yuvraj Singh hit a four and a six in the 14th over.
The nature of the pitch was not so apparent in the first four overs of the afternoon. Delhi had got off to another flier when madness struck: Gautam Gambhir and David Warner were run out within three balls of each other, and only 69 runs came in 15.5 overs after that. The spinners bowled 12 overs between them for 55 runs - four of them inside the Powerplay, and Juan Theron, the specialist pace bowler, was used only for two overs, that too at the death.
Even after Virender Sehwag's dismissal to the first ball he faced, Punjab would have been disappointed with the first 3.4 overs: without hitting even one shot in the air, Delhi raced away to 39, including two sets of five wides. The next delivery, though, Gambhir cut straight to short third man, was called for a single by Warner, and then sent back with no chance to get in. Either way there would have been a run-out: there was no single available. Two balls later, Warner played a similar shot, and Paul Collingwood responded in similar manner.
From there on, Punjab spinners employed a vicious vice grip on the batsmen: only two boundaries came in the rest of the innings. Following Powar's opening act, Piyush Chawla feasted. Collingwood's lbw wasn't as bad as it looked; it was worse. He sat back and intended to read Chawla off the pitch, and was caught dead plumb to a straight topspinner. Daniel Vettori was defeated by a perfect Chawla googly. Thirty-nine for 1 in 3.3 had become 58 for 4 in 10 overs, and it was down to Dinesh Karthik to take Delhi to a fighting total.
Karthik tried various tricks to get quick runs, sweeps, reverse-sweeps, moving in the crease, but could never get away. When he tried to force the pace off the coming-back Irfan Pathan, he holed out to long-on, for 17 off 35. Mithun Manhas, Delhi's middle-order mainstay for years in Ranji Trophy, played sensibly after that, and managed to go at about run a ball for his 26, an effort that took Delhi beyond 100.
Mahela Jayawardene walked out to open with Irfan, sent presumably to get some quick runs, but it was the classier batsman who made sure Punjab didn't crumble in the chase. While Irfan holed out to deep midwicket, Jayawardene kept playing the orthodox shots and scored at a run a ball, which was better than the rate required.
In the fourth over of the chase, he scored a lovely inside-out boundary and followed it up with the first six of the match, a clean strike over long-on. Still even Jayawardene found it difficult to time the ball, a few of his attempted big shots ended up inside the infield, and on this pitch a collapse couldn't have been too many corners away.
When Jayawardene fell at the end of the 11th over, for a 35-ball 38, he had left Punjab 47 to get off 54, which soon became 41 off 42. In the 14th over, though, Yuvraj managed two clean hits in quick succession, a cluster by the standards of this match. He guided Rajat Bhatia past short fine, followed by a heaved six over midwicket. After that the equation was manageable, and the late hiccup through Kumar Sangakkara's wicket only teased Delhi for having over-aimed during their innings.
Sidharth Monga is a staff writer at Cricinfo