Blazing Taylor knocks out Delhi
Twenty20 matches are usually pulsating, high-octane affairs, and this one lived up to that billing. A Diwali that began with a bomb scare ended in fireworks as Royal Challengers Bangalore, having been eliminated before they took the field, took Delhi Daredevils down with them.
The tone for this emphatic win was set in the field when Anil Kumble and Roelof van der Merwe derailed Delhi. The visitors managed just two boundaries - one in the 17th, one in the 20th - in the last ten overs. If ever there was a damning statistic, there you had it.
Bangalore had been sloppy with their fielding - a catch and two run-outs went begging inside the first seven overs and the outfielding was very sloppy in the last six - but it was Delhi who were really left to rue catches put down off Ross Taylor in consecutive overs. With a raucous Bangalore crowd cheering his every move, Taylor gave them value for money with a stunning 38-ball 65 that sealed a thumping win and ensured that no IPL team will make it to the semi-finals.
Delhi's innings was not the performance they needed to ensure their progress to the semi-final, but they seemed set to redeem themselves early on. Bangalore lost Manish Pandey to a muscle pull in the second over and Robin Uthappa to a miscued pull lacking muscle in the fourth. Taylor took Glenn McGrath for three fours in his opening over, hitting with customary flair, but found Dirk Nannes short-of-a-length deliveries tougher to negotiate. With Nannes turning in a good spell of 1 for 12 off three, Bangalore were stifled and managed an unsatisfactory 35 from the Powerplay.
At this stage singles were not a major concern for Gautam Gambhir, but he was severely let down by Ashish Nehra, who dropped an easy catch off Taylor, when on 18, at long-off and parried the ball over for six. To rub it in, Rahul Dravid bisected point and gully for four off Amit Mishra and picked up two as Nehra fumbled in the deep.
That drop was the impetus Taylor needed to step up. Rajat Bhatia was drilled for six and then put down a return catch when Taylor was 32; McGrath returned and was picked for two more fours, one finely edged and the other pulled with disdain; Mishra was slogged for successive sixes, the first raising his fifty from 29 balls, and swatted for four. A thumped four from Dravid made it 21 in the over.
Taylor was bowled soon after by Nannes, but by then the match was over. Out came Virat Kohli, with 31 needed from 41, and in a blaze of boundaries he helped finish it off with 29 balls remaining. Mishra's woeful outing was rounded off with four boundaries from Kohli in an 18-run 15th over, and Dravid scored the winning runs with a six off Nehra. Bangalore scored 104 in their last nine overs.
Earlier in the day, Virender Sehwag gave Delhi a strong start before the hosts fought back gallantly to restrict them to 138 for 6. Sehwag had begun his innings with typical belligerence, cracking four fours from his six deliveries as Delhi put 19 on the ball in just two overs. He hit 47 from 29 balls to help Delhi to 77 for 1 after nine overs, but his departure signalled a slump as Delhi scored 61 in the next 11 while losing five wickets. Leading Bangalore's surge back into the match were their spinners, Kumble and van der Merwe.
With the track slowing up, the run-rate dipped with it, and the spinning pair took full advantage. Sehwag's aggression against van der Merwe was short-lived as he got under another straight ball and picked out long-off, the dismissal that turned the innings. Kumble, on his 39th birthday, struck with the wicket of Dinesh Karthik with his third ball and, combined with a precise spell from van der Merwe, he served to restrict Delhi to a slow run-rate through the middle overs. Kumble was the pick of the bowlers with 3 for 30, while van der Merwe finished with 1 for 17.
Mixing googlies and flippers, Kumble stymied the batsmen. Out of the frustration of one run in four balls, Tillakaratne Dilshan reverted to his trademark scoop only to top-edge a return catch to Kumble. Kumble was let down by Manish Pandey and Kohli who over-ran balls and allowed free runs, yet managed limit the damage by getting Owais Shah in the 17th over.
Delhi let themselves down with the bat and in the field, and from his pool the Cobras and Victory march forward.
Jamie Alter is a senior sub-editor at Cricinfo