Andrew Symonds starred in an impressive all-round effort, racing to 35 and picking up three wickets, to help Deccan Chargers achieve their third consecutive victory in the IPL - a result in contrast to Delhi Daredevils' run in the competition, as they slipped to their third defeat in as many games despite a counter-attack from captain Dinesh Karthik. Symonds' effort was backed up by an attacking knock from Rohit Sharma, who burst into spotlight after a quiet start to the competition to take Deccan to a challenging score, which proved just about adequate for them to continue their winning ways.
Deccan will look back at three stages where they came up trumps to snatch the game. They ensured the task of posting a competitive total was achieved, as Rohit and T Suman added 60 in quick time after three threatening innings by Deccan's overseas batsmen - Adam Gilchrist, Herschelle Gibbs and Symonds - had been cut short by timely changes in bowling; they fought back in the middle overs after David Warner and AB de Villiers had combined to give Delhi a strong foundation for a successful chase; and they saw off a late scare from Karthik, who blasted 46 off 27. Symonds, bowling seam-up, bagged two wickets, including Karthik, off successive balls in the penultimate over to help seal a tight win.
The start to Delhi's chase was encouraging, as Warner began in ruthless fashion and followed that up with steady progress once the restrictions were lifted, underlining his determination to see his team through. While reaffirming his reputation as a big hitter, smashing four fours and two sixes in the first two overs, he proved equally adept nudging the ball around for singles and twos in the later overs.
Chaminda Vaas, among the most economical bowlers in the tournament, was taken for nine in his opening over. His partner RP Singh continued to be expensive, wilting to a brutal assault from Warner who alternated between clearing the ropes and drilling the bowler to the long-off boundary. A length delivery was sent over long-on and when RP held back to bowl short, he was flat-batted over point for another six.
Deccan, though, got rid of a major obstacle early in the chase, as Virender Sehwag suffered a rare lapse, miscuing Pragyan Ojha to be caught superbly by Gibbs. But de Villiers kept Warner good company, supporting him in a 51-run stand that gave Delhi the upper hand with two set batsman in the middle.
The partnership's end, however, marked a decisive moment in Delhi's chase. Warner attempted an impossible run, to be caught short at the striker's end; de Villiers soon fell, bowled off a full toss from Rahul Sharma in the 13th over, and when Mithun Manhas skied the same bowler to Suman 14 balls later, the game had turned Deccan's way. Moises Henriques, struck two fours but sliced Symonds to RP at point to make it 132 for 5 in the 17th over.
Rahul had enjoyed a successful start to his IPL season but Karthik's attack in the 18th over spoiled his figures. With his team in need of a desperate revival, Karthik bludgeoned Rahul through midwicket for a four and six, followed by a fearsome cut through point for a boundary. Symonds, too, was welcomed with a slash through point on the first ball of the next over, but showed sharp reflexes to send Karthik on his way, plucking an uppish drive with his outstretched right hand. Amit Mishra was caught behind the next delivery and Vaas bowled a typically miserly final over to finish things off.
The track in Cuttack was conducive to spin, taking turn and some extra bounce and Delhi used the conditions well, opting for a change in strategy, opening the bowling with a spinner. The slow bowlers grabbed the first three wickets; Monish Mishra and Gilchrist, who had blasted 24 off 14, and Gibbs, who, after smacking Dirk Nannes for two fours and two sixes, cut Yogesh Nagar straight to point. Symonds, with the confidence of two half-centuries behind him, looked ominous during his knock, finding the ropes with ease using the conventional shots but a mistimed slog put an end to his stay, as he slapped one straight to extra cover in the 14th over.
Suman, though, kept Deccan on course, picking out Henriques and Nannes for three boundaries before Rohit took off at the other end. Umesh Yadav was smashed for 18 in the 17th over, pulled over square leg and struck over long-on for sixes and sliced over point for a boundary. Henriques, too, wasn't spared, as he was dispatched over the ropes by Rohit in the next over, which fetched another 14. His parting shot was a steer over point off Nannes before a miscue to mid-off ended his innings. The final two overs yielded just 15, but Deccan's bowlers were able to put an under-performing Delhi under pressure and accomplish a hard-fought win.