Adam Gilchrist's blazing half-century went in vain as a spectacular late collapse saw the Deccan Chargers lose to the Delhi Daredevils by 12 runs in the Indian Premier League, in Durban, on Wednesday.
Chasing Delhi's 173 for seven, Deccan seemed in control for most part of their innings till medium pacer Rajat Bhatia triggered a lower order to turn the match. Deccan lost their last seven wickets in 17 deliveries for the addition of just 12 runs to be bowled out for 161 in 19.4 overs.
Gilchrist gave his team the perfect start with a quickfire 64 from 33 deliveries, inclusive of five boundaries and five sixes. Andrew Symonds then chipped with a brisk 41 from 22 deliveries, but Bhatia scripted a fine turnaround, claiming four for 15 in 2.4 overs.
Earlier, Dinesh Karthik slammed Chaminda Vaas for 23 runs in the final over to finish unbeaten on a blazing knock of 44 from 23 deliveries.
Tillakaratne Dilshan, who was dropped on 8, made Deccan pay with a quickfire 37 from 18 deliveries. However, regular wickets in the middle overs saw Deccan fightback before AB de Villiers steadied the ship with his 36-ball 43.
Deccan, who elected to bowl, didn't take time to strike the first blow. In-form David Warner was gobbled up by Chaminda Vaas in his first over for 4. The Australian left-hander tried to lift Vaas down the ground but was beaten by the slower ball and was taken at mid-off. (7-1, 1.3)
Virender Sehwag chose to drop himself down the order as Tillakaratne Dilshan walked in at number three. Dilshan started off in grand style by slamming the first two balls he faced for boundaries off compatriot Vaas.
The Sri Lankan batsman, on 8, also got a reprieve in the next over when Rohit Sharma dropped the easiest of catches in the gully region. He made sure Deccan regretted that drop catch as he slammed Shoaib Maqsusi for 24 runs in the sixth over of the innings. Dilshan seemed unstoppable as he slammed four boundaries and a six in the over as Delhi after a steady start jumped to 56 for one after six overs.
But Dilshan's adventurous innings was cut short by Andrew Symonds after a quickfire 37 from 18 deliveries, inclusive of seven boundaries and six. The right-hander tried another big hit through midwicket but ended up holing to Ravi Teja on the boundary. (57-2, 6.2)
Symonds was unlucky not to have picked up the wicket of AB de Villiers in his next over. The South African pulled a short delivery from Symonds but Teja at long-on running back failed to hold on and ended up spilling it over the ropes for a six.
Gambhir, who made 19 from 25 deliveries, tried to break free. He danced down the wicket against Pragyan Ojha but him straight to Venugopal Rao at the long-on fence. (80-3, 9.5)
Virender Sehwag, back after missing four games, also got a lucky reprieve when Deccan spilled their third catch of the evening. Sehwag (0) hit Dwayne Smith straight to Symonds at long-off but shockingly the Australian dropped the easy offering.
However, Delhi found it hard to break free as Deccan came up with some tight overs.
Sehwag finally broke the shackles in the 14th over when he slammed Vaas through the covers for Delhi's first boundary after nearly five overs.
De Villiers kept Delhi on course for a healthy total when he hit consecutive boundaries off Smith in the 17th over. Just when it looked Delhi would run away with some big overs in the closing stages, Deccan struck against the run of play with the key wicket of de Villiers.
De Villiers failed to despatch a full toss from Smith and was taken by Ravi Teja at midwicket after a quick 44 from 36 deliveries. (130-5, 17)
Two deliveries later, Rajat Bhatia fell for a golden duck when he was caught by Maqsusi at short fine leg off Ojha. (131-6, 17.2)
Despite the cluster of wickets, Dinesh Karthik kept a positive approach as he slammed Ojha for consecutive boundaries in the 18th over.
Amit Mishra (2) sacrificed his wicket in the final over after he was run out trying to give Karthik the strike. (150-7, 19.1)
Just when it looked Deccan had done well to restrict Delhi, Karthik changed the script by smashing Vaas for 23 runs in the final over, including two sixes.
Karthik finished unbeaten on 44 from 23 deliveries, having hit four boundaries and three sixes, as Delhi posted a healthy 173 for seven in their 20 overs.
Ojha was once again Deccan's best bowler, claiming two for 26 in four overs. Vaas took two wickets but was carted for 52 runs in his four overs as Karthik took charge in the final overs.
Adam Gilchrist came out all guns firing as he hit Ashish Nehra for four boundaries in the first over of the innings.
Dirk Nannes also suffered in the second over when Gilchrist smashed him for a boundary followed by a big six over deep square leg as Deccan raced to 30 after two overs.
At the other end, T Suman fell cheaply for 3 when he was caught by Nehra at mid-on off Pradeep Sangwan. (33-1, 2.5)
Delhi also showed their sloppiness on the field when they left off Gilchrist on 28. The left-hander was dropped by AB de Villiers at slip as he went the wrong way off Nannes in the fourth over.
Rohit Sharma promised a lot with an early boundary but fell rather tamely for 6. The right-hander hit a full delivery from Sangwan straight to Warne at cover. (40-2, 4.2)
At the other end, sixes continued to rain off Gilchrist's bat as the Aussie launched into Nehra for another big hit over long-on in the sixth over.
So far Amit Mishra had enjoyed quite a good outing in the IPL. But it turned out to be a different story against the rampaging Gilchrist, who took him to the cleaners in his first over. Gilchrist smashed the young leg-spinner for successive sixes through the leg-side as Deccan reached 80 for two in nine overs.
The strategic break proved quite a blessing for Delhi as they were rewarded with the big wicket of Gilchrist soon after.
It was Sangwan again, who came to Delhi's rescue when he got the wicket of Gilchrist bowled off an inside edge. The Deccan captain gave his team the ideal platform with a smashing knock of 64 from just 33 deliveries, inclusive of five boundaries and five sixes. (86-3, 10.5)
With that wicket Sangwan's figures read an impressive three for six in three overs including a maiden.
Andrew Symonds didn't take time to get started as he launched Mishra for sixes in consecutive overs as Deccan reached 124 for three, needing another 50 from the last six overs.
Symonds was again proving to be the difference as he carted Nannes for back to back boundaries in the 15th over.
In the next over, Nehra dropped a difficult return chance off Teja, who punished him with boundaries off the next two deliveries. But Teja, who kept chancing his arm, fell for 27 when he was caught by Bhatia off Nannes. (149-4, 17)
Teja's 61-run partnership in just 37 deliveries had brought Deccan right back into the match. With 25 runs needed from the last three overs and six wickets in hand, Deccan were the favourites to win this tight contest.
But Bhatia turned the match on its head with the wickets of Symonds and Dwayne Smith in the 18th over.
Symonds played all over a slower delivery from medium pacer Bhatia and was bowled for a quick 41 from 22 deliveries. (150-5, 17.2)
Two deliveries later, Smith joined him in the dugout when he also was beaten by Bhatia's slower delivery and was bowled for 1. (151-6, 17.4)
Suddenly the equation turned Delhi's way with 22 needed from the last two overs. And it didn't get any better for Deccan with another two wickets falling in the 19th over.
Venugopal Rao tried to guide Nehra to the third man region but ended up being caught behind for 1. (155-7, 18.3)
RP Singh fell for a first ball duck when he was run out from a direct hit from Nehra attempting a quick single. (155-8, 18.4)
Bhatia, who took two wickets in his previous over, was assigned to bowl the last over with Deccan needing another 14 runs. His slow pace once again did the trick as Delhi's last two batsmen could not do much and folded up rather tamely.
Pragyan Ojha (0) was bowled by a slow off-cutter, while Shoaib Maqsusi hit one straight to de Villiers at long-on to fall off the first delivery.
Chaminda Vaas was left stranded on 10 from six deliveries as Deccan folded up for 161 in 19.4 overs to lose the match by 12 runs.
Bhatia was Delhi's hero with the ball as he claimed four for 15 in 2.4 overs to trigger a late collapse that eventually proved to be the difference. Sangwan also made a good impression with the ball, taking three for 18 in four overs, while Nannes finished one for 31 in four overs.
It was a spectacular comeback by Delhi or rather a disastrous showing by Deccan, who lost their last seven wickets in 17 deliveries for the addition of just 12 runs.
With this victory, Delhi are virtually assured of a spot in the semi-finals with 16 points from 10 games. Deccan still hold on to the third spot with 12 points from 11 games, but still not guaranteed of a place in the last four.