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Delhi thrash Punjab by 10 wickets

By Rediff Cricket
Last updated on: April 20, 2009 12:03 IST
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Consider that it takes 20 overs to constitute a game in a conventional ODI interrupted by weather, and the ridiculousness of a shortened Twenty20 game becomes apparent: the rules say five overs is enough to make a game.

Judging by the events of the Delhi Daredevils versus Kings XI Punjab game, a far more viable option would be, in the event of rain, to toss for the result.

In the event, the game was first reduced to 14 overs a side, and then to 12 following a further rain delay – all this during the first innings.

Another rain delay when Delhi began its chase of a less than imposing target shortened the game further, to just six overs for the chasing side – and Delhi openers Virender Sehwag and Gautam Gambhir needed just 4.5 of those to knock off the 54 runs Duckworth-Lewis had prescribed as their target.

Helping Delhi's cause further – not that the likes of Sehwag and Gambhir needed much help against a fairly ordinary attack – was the fact that the boundaries were shortened even further to exclude sections of the outfield that were wet; this meant that the two openers could go across, or over, the ropes with even half-hearted wafts.

The result could have been considerably different had Kings XI managed to play the middle part of their innings with the same elan their openers showed.

Sehwag used his four faster bowlers, Dirk Nannes, Avishkar Salvi, Pradeep Sangwan and Yo Mahesh, in one-over bursts at the start. None of the quartet managed the right lines and lengths; Kings XI openers Ravi Bopara and Karan Goel powered to 41/0 by the time the four seamers had finished an over each, and to 67/1 when the 'strategy break' was taken after six overs.

It was classic power-hitting, with Goel being particularly outstanding, smashing Yo Mahesh for three sixes while Bopara hoisted two off Sangwan.

Mahesh made amends of sorts when he kept the last ball of the sixth over full and straight, forcing Goel to miscue a loft over mid off and picking out Daniel Vettori to end an innings of 38/21 that put the wind in Punjab's sails.

At the halfway stage, Punjab looked in a commanding position, with a run rate of 11.06 per over – and then the wheels came off. 

Immediately after the break, Sehwag gave Vettori the ball, and the experienced Kiwi struck with his first ball when a tossed up in-dipper beat Ravi Bopara's (22/16) defensive push and trapped him plumb.

On over later, Vettori's tight line and the consequent dip in run rate forced Kumar Sangakkara (8/11) to take chances; the attempt to pull a short, quicker delivery however ended up as a skier that Nannes, at short fine leg, judged to a nicety.

With overs running out, Punjab skipper Yuvraj Singh began finding the power and range of his shots, hoisting Nannes for a six over long on off the last ball of the 10th over, and then slog-sweeping Vettori over deep midwicket.

A badly judged attempt to steal a single ended Yuvraj's flurry off the very next ball, when keeper Dinesh Karthik's throw to Vettori caught Yuvraj (16/11) well short.

Vettori then tossed one up at Mahela Jayawardene (6/6), inviting the lofted shot, but held it back just enough to force the batsman to miscue the hit and hole out to Tillekeratne Dilshan at long on.

Vettori's match-turning spell ended with another wicket, off the very next ball, when Piyush Chawla (0/) called for a single that just wasn't there, and was caught a mile short of his crease.

Punjab's over progression tells a story: 67/1 after 6; 68/2 in 7; 78/3 in 9; 98/6 in 11.

Irfan Pathan (6/7) managed a couple of braces off the last over, but holed out to Dilshan off Salvi to end Punjab's allotted 12 overs on 104/7 – an asking rate of 8.7 that by T20 standards was a walk in the park.

Sehwag's seamers had let him down, being collectively guilty of being too short too often especially in the early overs when the fuller length could have produced swing and seam, but Vettori's 3/15 in 3 overs (the maximum any one bowler could bowl per the rules for the shortened game) turned the game on its head.

Punjab tried to make something of it, with Kumar Sangakkarra standing up to the wicket for the very first over, from Pathan – a ploy to stop Gambhir from walking down the wicket in his patented fashion.

The ploy worked for three deliveries, one of them a wide, when Pathan pitched it up and got the ball to swerve. The next ball was short, Gambhir got under it and elevated it over cover for four, and from that point on there was only one side in the game.

Gambhir ended the over with a chipped four over midwicket; Sehwag began the next one, by Yusuf Abdullah, with a flicked six over backward square leg followed by a crashing drive through mid on and a trademark slash over point for boundaries.

The rains came down again; when the umpires deemed that play was fit to resume, the game had been further reduced to a total of 6 overs for the chasing team, with Duckworth-Lewis decreeing 54 as the target.

Yuvraj tried Vikramjeet Malik for the first over after resumption, Sehwag responded by smashing a six and a four, and completed the formality by hoisting Piyush Chawla high into the stands over long on to seal the win and secure maximum points for his side.

Gautam Gambhir gave Delhi an ideal start by driving Irfan Pathan over cover and flicking through midwicket for boundaries.

Thereafter, however, it was all Sehwag. He flicked his first ball, from Yusuf Abdulla, over fine leg for six and lofted his second to the long-on boundary.

The drizzle that had been around from the half-way point of Punjab's innings grew stronger and forced the players off with Delhi on 24 for 0 after 1.5 overs.

When play resumed, Delhi needed only 31 more off 25 balls. Sehwag (38 not out/16) drove the first ball after the resumption firmly to the long-off boundary and effectively ended any slim hopes of a Punjab victory.

'I told Gautam (Gambir, 15 not out from 13) to bat out the overs and I'll go after the bowling,' Sehwag said after the match in his characteristic style.

More telling was Vettori's comment: 'It is nice to have Sehwag and Gambhir on the same side, after bowling to them in the recent series.'

Both teams have problems with the bowling: Delhi's quartet of seamers appeared fairly ordinary, and pitched short too often for comfort; Punjab's four pacers seemed lacklustre even granting they didn't get to bowl more than an over apiece.

The two strong batting sides, thus, have to work on their ground game as the competition hots up.

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