There's no rust on this baby. Adam Gilchrist didn't just blow the Delhi Daredevils out with a blitzkrieg but also backed up his vow at the end of a disappointing 2008 to give fans in Hyderabad more to cheer for in 2009. Gilchrist played a pivotal role in bringing last season's wooden spoon holders this far and tonight, in the cauldron of a semi-final, he treated Centurion to a stunning display of hitting. His assault on Delhi's bewildered bowlers turned what threatened to be a tricky chase into a no-contest as Deccan chased down 154 with six wickets in hand and 14 balls to spare. Deccan have duly earned the right to be in Johannesburg on Sunday.
Gilchrist had looked like a man with a plan when, at the toss, he said Deccan would field and try and keep the opposition to an achievable target. With teams not always chasing down totals in the vicinity of 160 easily under lights at Centurion, Deccan's chase wasn't expected to be an easy one. It took Gilchrist five deliveries to dismiss such thoughts. Dirk Nannes, one of the success stories of this IPL, was flayed for five consecutive boundaries in the first over, Gilchrist pulling, cutting and driving with power. Nannes was not needed again until the 11th over by which time Deccan were well on their way.
That assault set a trend that continued through Gilchrist's innings as he made the semi-final his own. Ashish Nehra bowled Herschelle Gibbs for a duck but Gilchrist was in a hurry, clobbering Pradeep Sangwan's first three balls for four, four and six. No frills, just excellent bat speed and powerful wrists. In three overs Deccan were 41 for 1, out of which Nehra's first over cost just three.
Nehra's second was nowhere as controlled. Gilchrist drove a no-ball for four and drilled the free hit for a straight six to raise Deccan's fifty in 23 deliveries - his contribution being 48 from 14 balls. His half-century needed just 17 balls, the fastest of the IPL. Virender Sehwag came on for the first and last time in the tournament, with Gilchrist plundering three successive sixes in a 25-run over. It was the Gilchrist of old, the man who put the fear of God in bowlers the world over.
Why Sehwag brought himself on before Amit Mishra and the crafty Rajat Bhatia on a sluggish track will go down as one of the IPL's blunders, because the legspinner struck almost immediately. Gilchrist fell for a superb 85 from 35 balls one delivery before the strategic break, but the damage had been done. Mishra then cut Andrew Symonds off before he could finish the job, finishing with 3 for 19. Rohit Sharma walked out with 17 required from 38 balls and closed the deal in T Suman's company.
Matters had veered to and fro throughout the first half of the match but Deccan's reining Delhi in to 153 ultimately proved decisive. Tillakaratne Dilshan had played a crucial hand, holding it together after Delhi's openers fell to Ryan Harris in the first over, and then providing the momentum as well when quick runs were needed. Deccan regrouped through Symonds and Harmeet Singh initially and Harris and RP Singh thereafter, only allowing Delhi 70 in the last ten overs.
A scoreline of 0 for 2 had little bearing on Dilshan. He led a charmed life, pulling his first ball just over deep backward square leg's fingertips for six and edging the second between gully and slip for four. Sehwag nearly ran him out next ball when he punched the ball to midwicket and then changed his mind.
While Sehwag got tall to work the ball to the leg side, Dilshan preferred to back away and squeeze it through backward point and third man. He used the uncomplicated strategy of judging the length early and then slapping it either off the back foot or front. When Pragyan Ojha slowed his pace and offered room Dilshan flayed him for boundaries, and when Symonds did the same he was cut away. Gilchrist was given a tough time in setting a field for Dilshan, who was adept at picking runs anywhere in the park. A drop behind the stumps when Dilshan was 30 didn't help.
After a maiden first over, Delhi scored 83 in nine. Runs came thick and fast and Gilchrist turned back to Symonds, who finally broke an 85-run alliance with a straighter one that Sehwag needlessly tried to paddle. Symonds and Harmeet choked runs and Deccan did well to take four wickets, including two run outs in the 20th over that only cost eight. Sehwag would have been pleased with 153 after Delhi were 0 for 2 but that was before Gilchrist stepped up. Delhi have now been thrashed in consecutive IPL semi-finals after dominating the league stages.
Gilchrist's praises have been sung in this tournament - he came into the game leading their run list - and tonight he deserved no less than a chorus.