Alagappan Muthu (ESPNcricinfo)
The burning question for Delhi Daredevils was their mettle under pressure. They were on a losing streak that was now at seven matches across two seasons. They still had to contend with their biggest influence – Kevin Pietersen – being restricted to the bench. They had to best one of the wilier attacks in the IPL, which believed – at 167 – it had enough to defend. However, fifties from stand-in captain Dinesh Karthik and new recruit JP Duminy took them home in an emphatic flurry.
The Daredevils captain was on the receiving end of a snorter from Albie Morkel in the last match, but today he was at his busy best. He nudged those singles and twos, his footwork against spin was precise and more importantly he held the chase together until Duminy arrived at No. 5 and took Morne Morkel for 21 runs in the 18th over to shift the balance.
Sunil Narine was Knight Riders’ go-to man again, gamely delivering a 19th over that allowed only six runs to leave the equation at run-a-ball. The pressure shifted to Piyush Chawla who beat Jimmy Neesham with a legbreak that didn’t turn, and then snapped him up with a seam-up delivery. Duminy hared across to the other end so that he was on strike, and belted another quick delivery over square leg to take the honours with three balls to spare.
A big target requires some risks at the top and can sometimes contribute to wickets without much doing from the bowlers. M Vijay was one such casualty when his search for a non-existent single resulted in his run-out. Ross Taylor could not get going for a second game in a row, and was undone by an offcutter from Jacques Kallis. Daredevils, though, still managed a quick start, thanks to Mayank Agarwal’s 26 off 14, which ensured the Powerplay fetched 49 runs.
Karthik and Duminy got together with 107 needed off 13 overs, and began milking the spinners. Narine was kept back until the 11th over, by which time Karthik had a measure of the situation. His strike rate spent only two balls under 100 as he trusted his nurdles on either side of the wicket to keep the score ticking. Chawla’s first over highlighted Karthik’s range against spin when he carted a six over square leg, and then cut a four through point. A languid four over extra cover brought up his fifty, and was probably the shot of the match.
Duminy was at his innovative best. His first boundary was a scoop over the keeper. He would need to pull out his finishing skills. He lost Karthik in the 15th over, Manoj Tiwary could only last six balls, and Knight Riders scented a turnaround with 40 needed off the final four overs.
It was then that Duminy exploded. Morne Morkel had set up Knight Riders’ victory on Wednesday with a brutal first spell. His pace and lift was just as troublesome to deal with today as he claimed two wickets, but at the crunch he almost seemed to play into Duminy’s hands. A length ball, a short one and a full toss were blitzed for four, six and six.
Pace on ball might have let Knight Riders down at the crucial moment, but it worked for Daredevils when asked Nathan Coulter-Nile and Jaydev Unadkat to join Mohammed Shami. The pitch might have been slow, but under lights the ball began to seam.
Mohammed Shami exploited it in the first over to hand Jacques Kallis his ninth duck, and mark him as the specialist batsman with the most ducks in the tournament. Gautam Gambhir, was still searching for his first runs this season, when he tucked one off the hip, straight to leg gully, to join Kallis at nine ducks.
Manish Pandey and Robin Uthappa rebuilt the innings with a 64-run partnership, telling themselves the release was around the corner. Uthappa survived a scare Taylor dropped him on seven. Even though Pandey fell in the 11th over, Uthappa, assisted by cameos from Shakib Al Hasan and Suryakumar Yadav, set up a total that visibly energised the Knight Riders’ dug-out at the innings-break. But Daredevils just wanted it more.