Delhi prevail in low-scoring contest
The spate of low scores at the Feroz Shah Kotla continued on Monday with the Cape Cobras collapsing in their chase of 115 to lose by 30 runs, in the bargain posting the tournament's lowest total. The good news for them, though, was that they finished second in League B and will play their semi-final against Trinidad and Tobago in Hyderabad, avoiding the dodgy Kotla pitch. There was good news for Delhi Daredevils, too - they were already out of the tournament but ended on a high and gave their fans something to cheer.
With the pitch behaving as expected - the ball coming on slowly and the bounce uneven - bowlers from both teams stuck to a plan similar to that adopted by other teams here. While pace helped Cobras restrict Delhi's batsmen, the home team relied on their spinners to turn the tide and pick up the big wickets - Herschelle Gibbs, JP Duminy and Justin Ontong. Gautam Gambhir, aware of the tricky pitch, opted to open the bowling with Tillakaratne Dilshan and the turn was evident in his second delivery as he trapped Gibbs in front to one that shot in from outside off. Duminy, charged with the responsibility of guiding the innings after Henry Davids' departure, was castled by Amit Mishra to one that kept extremely low, and Ontong was bowled through the gate, deceived by Dilshan's flight.
Strangely enough, though, the flow of each innings was altered by run-outs that prevented a par score on this track. Dinesh Karthik's attacking 23 was ended by an all-too-familiar blunder by his partner Owais Shah, while Henry Davids' dismissal off a direct hit from Pradeep Sangwan at short third man - after putting on an aggressive 27 with Duminy - proved decisive in getting Delhi back in the game.
Meanwhile, Dirk Nannes went about his job with typical efficiency; having uprooted Andrew Puttick's off stump in his second over, he delivered immediately on return for his second spell. Ryan Canning was bowled while attempting a pull and Claude Henderson failed to dig one out of the blockhole. At 78 for 8, there was only one result possible and Yogesh Nagar made swift work of the tail.
Delhi's score was boosted by Shah, who made amends for Karthik's dismissal with some aggression at the death. He broke a 10-over boundary drought with a six over long-on off Ontong, and helped snatch 35 off the last four overs to give his bowlers something of a target.
Karthik had launched a counter-attack after Rory Kleinveldt - who kept a tight line and offered little width - had reined in Delhi by dismissing the openers. After seeing off three overs amid the pressure of a declining run-rate, he stepped up to dispatch Kleinveldt for three consecutive fours. Each delivery varied in length but Karthik adapted brilliantly; a short one was pulled over midwicket, a good-length delivery was driven on the up and a slower ball bowled full was clattered over extra cover. His dismissal pegged back Delhi further, but Shah's surge towards the end of the innings took them to what turned out to be a match-winning total.
While the Hyderabad semi-final between T&T and Cobras promises to be a high-scoring one, the two Australian teams, Victoria and New South Wales, will be wary of what is likely to be on offer in Delhi, with the pitch spoiling a game designed for big hits.
Siddhartha Talya is an editorial assistant at Cricinfo