It was clobbering time at the Ferozeshah Kotla on Tuesday, but with a few heart-in-the-mouth twists. The bats flailed and heaved as usual, and an electrifying Virat Kohli (56; 38b, 8×4, 2×6) reminded his city of what they had missed out on by not hiring him. But the grassy side strip which produced a 433-run riot in the last game played a tad slower and there were a few precious moments when the bowlers and fielders did not resemble those nameless villains from superhero flicks who get smashed around for no good reason.
Zaheer Khan and Vettori had been impressive earlier in the afternoon and just when it seemed Kohli and Gayle were running away with the game – a whirlwind 82-run stand off just 43 balls with Royal Challengers Bangalore chasing a seemingly modest 160 – Delhi seemed to engineer the most remarkable T20 turnaround. Three wickets in the space of 11 balls and with Gayle, Kohli and AB de Villiers back in the pavilion, the Devils had their tails up. Could they script their most memorable win of the season?
Morne Morkel got rid of a defiant Saurabh Tiwary to make it 139/6 in the 17th, but in the end the blitz up the order was just enough to see RCB through as Vettori and left-arm spinner Syed Mohammad calmed the nerves. But the drama hadn’t ended yet. Three to defend in the last over, two to get off the last five, and Vettori was dropped by Irfan Pathan at mid-off! Finally the roller-coaster had come to a stop. RCB had sneaked through by 3 wickets and the Devils had lost the spring in their step. They hadn’t done enough with either bat or ball.
It was all going according to the script for RCB until the eighth over when Hopes, who had earlier resurrected Delhi’s innings with a half-century, got Gayle caught at deep square leg. AB de Villiers fell victim to a stunning fielding effort from David Warner in the next over and then Morkel found the inside edge of Kohli’s bat.
But maybe Gayle and Kohli had already done enough by then. With RCB boasting three players from previous season’s Delhi team, it was supposed to be a match-up between the old Devils and the new. Instead, the party was gate-crashed by one of Delhi’s favourite sons who has never represented his city in the IPL – Kohli – and that grim enforcer called Chris Gayle.
Kohli at No. 3 got off the blocks with electrifying style, pure timing soiling Dinda’s figures and Irfan Pathan quickly discovering he wasn’t up to the task, four fours off Kohli’s bat making a mockery of the out-of-sorts bowler’s high billing at the auction. The outcomes of most T20 matches are settled in the first few overs and RCB’s first four with the bat yielded 49, with Gayle pounding Morkel through covers and heaving him over long before taking a liking to Dinda. The first six overs yielded 65 and the early dismissal of Dilshan was forgotten.
It appeared the debate would settle faster than one could argue the demerits of Delhi benching Colin Ingram and playing Matthew Wade. It was only a promoted James Hopes (54 off 43; 7×4) who came up with a resurrection act in a 47-run stand with Venugopal Rao which allowed Delhi to make a match after Warner and Sehwag were puffed out early.
Zaheer got the ball to talk after an indifferent and expensive IPL season so far, keeping Sehwag relatively quiet and beating Warner repeatedly with away-going deliveries before getting one to magically sneak back in. A quick-thinking Mithun ran out Sehwag and Hopes seized the spotlight, a no-ball reprieve from Mithun after the batsman had holed out to point proving handy. But Delhi were 20-30 runs short and Kohli’s brilliance sealed the day for RCB.