It was IPL in a nutshell. A big name - Brendon McCullum - bossed the start, so much that Gujarat Lions recorded the fastest hundred of the season. A helpless collapse then killed the prospect of a one-sided game and Delhi Daredevils would have fancied chasing 173 with dew gathering at Feroz Shah Kotla. However, they slipped to 16 for 3 and the home fans despaired. The game, though, wasn't done playing with everyone's emotions.
Out walked the million-dollar man Chris Morris with 116 needed off 56, and walloped the third fastest fifty in the IPL, off 17 balls. When the match ended, he was unbeaten on 82 off 32, but there was no smile on his face. It was stolen by Praveen Kumar and Dwayne Bravo, who gave away only 16 off the final two overs to pull off a one-run win for Lions.
Morris had come in at No. 6 and launched his second ball into the second tier of the stands behind long-off. Very few of his eight sixes and four fours were mistimed, but a lot of them came as a result of his being able to get under the ball. Praveen prevented that in the penultimate over of the chase, conceding only four to leave Daredevils needing 14 off six balls. Bravo, bowling from around the stumps, then hit the blockhole repeatedly to deny Morris' sublime innings the status of match-winning.
Suresh Raina gave his frontline spinners - Ravindra Jadeja and Pravin Tambe - only one over each and they cost a combined 31 runs. Bowling with the wet ball, they stood very little chance against Morris, armed with a crowd that was bellowing his name. His reach was handy, his balance at the crease was pristine and his clarity of thought handling a required rate that was above 12 was downright chilling.
Morris' first two sixes dragged the equation down from 101 off 48 to 85 off 42. Two against Tambe in the 15th over brought it to 57 off 30. A hat-trick of them in the 17th over bowled by Dwayne Smith sealed his fifty and left Daredevils needing 29 off 18. But JP Duminy, who had begun Daredevils' revival, was undone by a Bravo slower ball for 48 which provided just enough of an opening for Lions to sneak through.
Their victory had almost seemed a formality when McCullum smashed Lions' fastest fifty, and Smith usurped him a few minutes later. Along the way Lions had reached 100 for 0 in a mere nine overs.
This batting line-up had beaten perhaps the best one in the IPL on Sunday, when a Virat Kohli century had not been enough. Daredevils were looking at a target of 220, as a best-case scenario. But Morris did what Royal Challengers Bangalore's bowlers couldn't; he had set plans and executed them very well. He dismissed McCullum and Raina in the 12th over; Lions were short-circuited and could only manage 55 runs in the remaining 48 balls.
Morris knew McCullum thrived on fast bowling, so he produced an offcutter that dipped under the bat swing and broke the stumps. He targeted Raina's body and had leg gully in place to take the catch. That gave the Daredevils spinners some freedom.
Imran Tahir added to his reputation of being one of the best bowlers in T20 cricket with a spell of 3 for 24, the hallmark of which was his ability to vary the pace and time the googlies and flippers that surprised the batsmen. Where his slow-bowling partners Amit Mishra and Shahbaz Nadeem bowled flat in the hopes of containing the batsmen, Tahir backed his skill to confound them. He had Smith lbw with a ball that skidded through off the pitch and removed Ishan Kishan and Dinesh Karthik off successive balls in the 17th over.
Much like Tahir, Dhawal Kulkarni relied on his strength - swing - to topple Sanju Samson, an in-form Quinton de Kock and Karun Nair to lift Lions in the chase but his 3 for 19 wouldn't have mattered much until his new-ball partner Praveen bowled an excellent final over to strangle Morris and finish with 4-0-13-0.