The prospect of a league stage line-up without a single Indian IPL team would have been a nightmare for the organisers and television rights holders, but Delhi Daredevils' merciless showing today went a long way in dispelling those fears. With their backs to the wall, the fear of elimination in front of their home fans drove them to deliver a 50-run walloping against Wayamba and also reverse the trend of low-scoring games at the Kotla.
The performance of the Australian pace-bowling duo of Dirk Nannes and Glenn McGrath effectively shut Wayamba out of the game early in the chase but the foundation was laid by a brilliant display of power hitting by Virender Sehwag and Dinesh Karthik. Their 67-run partnership pushed Delhi to a score at least 30 runs above what captains had predicted to be competitive after summing up the conditions over the last three games at this venue.
The pitch at the Kotla came under scrutiny after the first couple of games on Friday and again today when New South Wales had to grind it out on a slow and low surface to post 130. Both NSW and Delhi employed strong horizontal bat shots, but the difference was the Delhi pair's tremendous bat speed that allowed them to collectively hit 15 fours and four sixes. Without taking any credit away from NSW, the duo of Phillip Hughes and Moises Henriques managed only seven fours and three sixes between them.
In the context of Delhi's assault, the first three overs - which yielded just three runs and included an opening-over maiden - were an aberration. The innings opened up in the fourth over when Isuru Udana, whose slower balls and good length deliveries got a little predictable, got hit for three boundaries.
There was a lull when two star attractions in Tillakaratne Dilshan and Gautam Gambhir departed in quick succession. Those strikes didn't deter Sehwag who gave the raucous home crowd plenty to cheer with some powerful strokes off the front foot.
Farveez Maharoof was brought in to take the pace off the ball and make run-scoring difficult but Delhi didn't allow him to settle. Karthik cleverly picked the huge gap at third man, dabbing him past the keeper for two boundaries in an over. His initial strategy was to knock the ball into the gaps and allow Sehwag the strike. The track had given the spinners assistance in the NSW game and the Sehwag and Karthik, perhaps mindful of that, didn't want them to settle into a comfort zone either. Sehwag slogged Kaushal Lokuarachchi's first ball over deep midwicket before Karthik too joined in the act, reaching out to drive the bowler past the covers.
A frantic call for a single cost Sehwag his wicket but the innings never lost momentum, thanks to Karthik who was already well-set. In the 19th over, Karthik slogged Ajantha Mendis for three consecutive sixes over the leg side, much in the same vein as Justin Ontong's late assault for the Cape Cobras on Saturday.
The match was all but sealed when Nannes and McGrath punched holes into the Wayamba top order to reduce them to a hapless 36 for 5. Mahela Udawatte swung at thin air and lost his middle stump to Nannes while Michael Vandort was bowled by same bowler after making a start with two impressive boundaries. The Powerplay overs yielded an unsatisfactory 31 and the minute Jeevantha Kulatunga tried to force the pace against Amit Mishra, he holed out to sweeper cover. McGrath knocked back Jehan Mubarak's off stump for a first-ball duck and with it all hopes of a competitive chase.
Delhi never showed any signs of slackness in the field even while Wayamba had two capable batsmen in Mahela Jayawardene and Maharoof at the crease. Dilshan set one such example when he sprinted all the way from mid-off to his right and took a tumbling catch to send back Maharoof. Jayawardene, walking in at No.4, helped himself to a half-century which got lost in the collapse. His innings featured two clean strikes over the rope and a reverse sweep for four. He then holed out to long-off to hand Nannes his fourth wicket.
In their last ten overs, Delhi slammed 104 runs. Wayamba, in their full quota, managed only 120 runs and there lay the big difference between the teams. Though Jayawardene's effort came in a lost cause, it could make a difference if the net run rate comes into the picture at the end of the round.
Kanishkaa Balachandran is a sub-editor at Cricinfo