Cometh the hour, cometh the man!
It was massacre at the Centurion on Friday as Adam Gilchrist shred Delhi Daredevils’ bowling to pieces to lead Deccan Chargers to the final of the Indian Premier League.
Gilchrist set the stadium alight with a blazing 85 from 35 deliveries, hitting as many 10 boundaries and five sixes, as Deccan Chargers registered a convincing six-wicket victory in the first semi-final.
Andrew Symonds smashed 24 from 15 deliveries, and T Suman chipped in with a brisk 24 not out, as the Chargers cruised to 154 for four in 17.4 overs in reply to Delhi’s 153 for eight.
Gilchrist’s decision to bowl first was vindicated immediately by pacer Ryan Harris, who claimed the wickets of Gautam Gambhir and David Warner for ducks in his first over.
Tillakaratne Dilshan led a fine counter-attack, hitting 65 from 51 deliveries, as he plundered 85 runs in 58 deliveries for the third wicket with Virender Sehwag, who made 39 from 31. But, in the end, Delhi’s total was just not enough.
Harris registered best figures for Deccan, claiming three for 27 in four overs, while RP Singh claimed two for 33 in four.
Ryan Harris gave Deccan Chargers a dream start, scalping both the Delhi openers – Gautam Gambhir and David Warner – in the first over of the innings.
Gambhir failed to get the first four deliveries and the frustration that built saw him lose his cool and wicket too. The left-hander stepped down the wicket, gave himself a bit of room, but sliced it straight to R P Singh at the third man boundary and was out for a duck. (0-1, 0.4)
Warner fell off the very next delivery when he cut a short delivery straight to the point fielder. Both openers walked back for a duck. (0-2, 1)
But Delhi launched an immediate counter-attack. Tillakaratne smashed the first delivery he faced, from RP Singh, for a six over square leg and followed it up with a boundary fine through the third man region in the second over.
Dilshan survived a close run-out chance in the third over when he was sent back by Sehwag but Harris failed to collect the ball and knock down the stumps at the bowler’s end.
It was raining boundaries at the Centurion as Dilshan started the fourth over by cracking RP through the point region for a boundary and Sehwag complemented him by smashing the final delivery for yet another boundary.
Pragyan Ojha was introduced early, in the sixth over, and immediately Dilshan looked to take him to the cleaners, with two more boundaries in the over, as Delhi raced to 49 for two.
Sehwag lofted medium pacer Andrew Symonds over the cover region for his fourth boundary, which also brought up the 50-run partnership for the third wicket, in the seventh over.
Ojha had been Deccan’s best bowler so far, but here was proving to be easy meat for Sehwag and Dilshan, who were hitting him for boundaries at will.
Gilchrist then did Delhi a huge favour when he dropped a sharp catch off Dilshan (30) in the ninth over, bowled by Symonds. It looked like a race between the two batsmen as they matched each other shot for shot, Delhi fighting back in style to reach 83 for two in ten overs.
But Hyderabad hit back after the strategic time-out when they claimed the key wicket of Sehwag and restricted Delhi to just 26 runs in the next five overs.
Sehwag fell in the dreaded 11th over, trapped leg before wicket by Symonds after a brisk 31 from 39 deliveries.
The Delhi captain shuffled across his stumps and tried a fine paddle sweep, but was struck right in front. (85-3, 10.4)
Sehwag helped engineer a fine counter-attack after the loss of two wickets in the first over, as he added 85 runs in 58 deliveries for the third wicket with Dilshan.
Dilshan completed his half-century with a cracking boundary off Harmeet Singh in the 14th over. He took just 35 deliveries to reach the landmark, having hit seven boundaries and a six.
AB de Villiers also ensured that the momentum didn’t drop as he launched Ojha high into the stands over midwicket for a six.
Dilshan, on 58, then enjoyed his second reprieve in the match when Gibbs dropped an easy running catch at the midwicket boundary off part-timer Rohit Sharma.
De Villiers then rubbed salt into Sharma’s wounds two balls later, slamming a big six over wide long-on.
Just when things looked to be getting out of hand, RP came back for a new spell and claimed the wicket of de Villiers for 26. The South African, who hit two sixes in his 21-ball knock, tried to pull a short delivery but the ball bounced a bit more and the thick edge was pouched easily by Gilchrist. (133-4, 17.1)
The in-form Dinesh Karthik (8 from 9 deliveries) struggled to get going in the final overs and was bowled by a yorker from Harris. (145-5, 19)
Rajat Bhatia hit a boundary off the first delivery he faced, from RP, and perished off the second when he hit one straight to the point fielder. (151-6, 19.3)
Dilshan perished in the final over for 65, run-out while trying an impossible second run. He smashed seven boundaries and a six in his 51-ball knock and played a big role in Delhi reaching so far.
Amit Mishra was run-out off the last delivery as Delhi finished on 153 for eight in their 20 overs.
RP Singh, who conceded 23 runs in his first two overs, came back strongly in his second spell to finish with two for 33 in his four overs. Harris also produced a good spell in the closing overs, claiming three for 27 in four, as Delhi managed only 70 runs in their last ten overs.
Just like they did with the ball, Deccan Chargers were off to a fiery start with the bat too, as Adam Gilchrist started off with five boundaries in the opening over.
Dirk Nannes was Delhi’s best bowler so far in tournament but here he came under the hammer as Gilchrist smashed him for 21 runs with boundaries all over the park.
At the other end, Gibbs gave his wicket away tamely, attempting a reckless shot off Ashish Nehra in the next over. The South African came down the wicket and tried a wild heave but missed the delivery completely and was bowled for 0. (22-1, 1.2)
Pradeep Sangwan replaced Nannes for the third over, but that did not have much effect on Gilchrist. He welcomed the left-armer with consecutive boundaries off the first two deliveries before unleashing a huge six over the midwicket fence as Deccan raced to 41 for one after just three overs.
Nehra had given just three in his first over but things were back to normal in his next with Gilchrist smashing a boundary and six.
In the next over from Dilshan, the Deccan captain created a record when he registered the fastest half-century in the IPL from just 17 deliveries, having hit eight boundaries and two sixes.
Sehwag brought himself inside the Powerplay overs when he came on to bowl the sixth over. It was a big gamble against the rampaging Gilchrist and the move fell flat on its face. The Aussie smashed him for a hat-trick of straight sixes.
Deccan had raced to 84 for one in six overs and now faced a relatively easy task ahead with 70 needed from the last 14 overs.
Amidst the carnage, Dilshan was doing a good job with the ball as he went for just six runs in his two overs.
Amit Mishra then brought some much-needed relief to the Delhi camp when he struck in his first over. Azhar Bilakhia struggled to 10 from 20 deliveries before deciding to emulate Gilchrist by stepping down the wicket and was stumped. (91-2, 8)
Interestingly, Bilakhia was involved in a 69-run partnership in just 40 deliveries with Gilchrist, but his contribution in that was just 10 runs.
The young leggie then provided Delhi with the biggest breakthrough of the evening when he scalped Gilchrist. The left-hander blazed to 85 from a mere 35 deliveries, with 10 boundaries and five sixes, before he got a top edged off an attempted slog and was taken at short third man. (102-3, 10)
The Deccan captain had led from the front and treated spectators to one of the most destructive innings ever seen in Twenty20 cricket or in any format for that matter.
With just 52 needed from the last 10 overs, Deccan were in cruise control courtesy Gilchrist’s blinder. But Andrew Symonds was in no mood relent and he smashed Nannes for consecutive boundaries in the 11th over.
T Suman also helped himself to boundaries off consecutive in Nehra’s next over as Delhi cruised towards the target, needing 23 from the last seven overs.
Symonds then smashed Mishra for a huge six over midwicket but perished the next delivery attempting another big shot. Symonds made 24 from 15 deliveries before his lofted shot was taken by Warner at long-on. (137-4, 13.4)
Suman showed great composure in the final stages, cruising to 24 from 25 deliveries, and Rohit Sharma was unbeaten on 5 as Deccan cruised to 154 for four in 17.4 overs and won by six wickets, with 14 deliveries to spare.
Mishra registered excellent figures of three for 19 in four overs but it hardly made a difference after Gilchrist’s blitzkrieg in the early overs.
Delhi had emerged the best team during the group stages, finishing with most points (20) but fell short in the crucial knockout match. Incidentally, they had also gone out in the semi-finals last year too.
Hyderabad’s resurgence is amazing. Last year, they finished bottom with just two wins but with Gilchrist leading from the front, they are transformed this season. Now they stand just one step away from the coveted IPL title.