Dinesh Karthik hit a delightful half-century on a slow pitch to charge Delhi Daredevils to a facile win against Rajasthan Royals at the Feroz Shah Kotla. Delhi were wobbling on 67 for 4 but Karthik added 79 with Gautam Gambhir to stabilise the innings before he exploded in style to provide the perfect finish. The target proved too stiff for Rajasthan, who never got going in the chase, and Delhi moved to second position in the points table.
On a pitch that was never going to get easier to bat on, it needed a special effort from Rajasthan, and Yusuf Pathan in particular, to overhaul this target. The entire chase revolved around Pathan. Rajasthan kept him back for the middle overs, for the battle against spin, but he was forced to come in early after Farveez Maharoof toppled the top order with his slow legcutters.
Yusuf hit a couple of sixes but when he lofted a slow, loopy legbreak from Amit Mishra to long-on, the chase derailed entirely. The packed house had more moments to cherish as David Warner took four catches and affected a run out to play a hand in five dismissals.
Rajasthan's troubles in the chase highlighted the value of Karthik's innings. He looked in touch right from the start and never allowed a run-scoring opportunity to go waste. What stood out was how well he paced his innings, and the thought he put into it. He played Shane Warne with caution, realising he could always take chances against the other bowlers. He blasted Tait to the straight boundary and unfurled a pick-up shot over square leg against Trivedi, but it was in the 17th over that he really shifted gears. He swung Sumit Narwal for a straight six on bent knee and followed up with a six over long-on next ball.
Karthik reserved his best for Tait, hitting a hat-trick of fours in the 18th over - a drilled straight boundary, a whipped on-drive and a deliciously-timed cover drive. And he wasn't done yet. In the final over, he pulled Tait for a six before holing out to long-on off the last delivery. By then, Karthik had done his job.
Delhi seemed to have entered the game with a plan. Since the dry pitch was getting slower, they wanted to cash in against the new ball. They went hard at it - with Virender Sehwag, David Warner and even Paul Collingwood, going for their shots. Sehwag struck the first few blows, swinging Yusuf Pathan for a six over wide long on and carving Adam Voges repeatedly over the off-side field.
Warne tried to take the pace off by using two spinners in the Powerplay but it was his medium-pacer Narwal who struck with the new ball, removing the explosive duo of Sehwag and Warner. Narwal saw Warner being reprieved by Trivedi at mid-on but struck almost immediately with a yorker. He then bowled a short delivery outside off to Sehwag, who edged the pull shot to the deep square-leg fielder.
Collingwood started with a flamboyant short-arm pulled six against Tait before he cut the bowler to the point boundary. However, he was run out by Voges, who dived full stretch to his left at point to intercept a square drive from Gambhir, and threw quickly to catch Collingwood short of the crease. Delhi went from 50 for 3 to 67 for 4 when Warne lured Kedar Jadhav into holing out to long-on in the ninth over.
It could have gone either way at this point but Gambhir found support from Karthik and they slowly, but assuredly, pushed Delhi towards a competitive total. The challenges were plenty: the ball started to stop a bit, Warne bowled a testing spell, Trivedi slipped in his cutters and Tait tried to beat them with pace in the air.
It was a little risk-free leg glance that settled Gambhir, who had started shakily, and got him going. Thereafter he used his feet to tackle the threat of Warne and rotated the strike with Karthik, who provided the much-needed momentum with an innings of character.