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All-round Delhi too strong for Punjab

Wisden India logo Wisden India 16-04-2017 Roshan Thyagarajan
© Provided by Wisden

From the time the coin landed in their favour on the dry strip at the Feroz Shah Kotla, Delhi Daredevils seemed destined to record their second consecutive victory in the Indian Premier League 2017. And win they did, as they put away Kings XI Punjab with surgical precision in Delhi on Saturday (April 15).

Winning the toss was crucial on this surface as the pitch was slow to start with and threatened to get downright sluggish. Fortunately for Delhi, Zaheer Khan, the skipper, called right and opted to bat. The decision yielded a massive 188 for 6 from 20 overs.

The boundaries at the Kotla are small, but this surface wasn’t an easy one to bat on, and Punjab found that out the hard way as they stumbled at every crucial junction against a side with a plan, finishing at 137 for 9 from 20 overs to hand Delhi a 51-run win.

The final scoreline, and possibly even the result, may have been different had Hashim Amla not played an uncharacteristic stroke and gotten out to Chris Morris (3 for 23) early on. But the fact that a batsman of his calibre found it necessary to accelerate early speaks volumes of the pressure the massive first-innings total had built. 

Looking back on Delhi’s innings, it would be unfair to give Sam Billings, the top-scorer with 55 from 40 balls, the only credit for their success. Billings did play some exquisite shots and looked in immaculate touch, but his innings wasn’t without flaws. He had trouble picking the spinners on a slow pitch. Luckily, the others, barring of course the out-of-form Karun Nair, had no such issues and had runs coming in a hurry.

While Billings felt his way around the pitch, Sanju Samson provided a flash of brilliance at the top before being dismissed. Shreyas Iyer, who was back at full fitness and replaced Aditya Tare for this game, gave the ball a good hiding en route to 22. Rishabh Pant too played his part, but the real troublemakers were yet to come. 

Corey Anderson, Chris Morris and Pat Cummins gripped their bats by the edge of the handle and used the leverage to send the ball flying high into the night sky. They had a signature swing for every conceivable delivery and there was nothing Punjab could do. 

They managed to get rid of Morris (16) before things got out of control, but they didn’t find a way to stop the Anderson train. The New Zealander smashed 39 not out from 22 balls, and it helped that Cummins, who hit a couple of fours in his unbeaten 12, wisely turned the strike over to Anderson.

What this combination of brute strength and intelligent strokeplay did was earn Delhi 68 runs from the last five overs.

Rahul Dravid, the team’s mentor, was evidently happy with his side’s performance with the bat, but as the second innings got underway he was back to his broody self. Even after Punjab were reduced to 31 for 3 with Manan Vohra, Wriddhiman Saha and Amla back in the hut, Dravid’s expression remained intent. 

In fact, it may have even grown sterner when David Miller and Eoin Morgan threatened to handle this predicament on their own. The end of that partnership and the dismissal of Glenn Maxwell, the Punjab skipper, was as good as the final nail in the coffin and that relaxed the former Indian skipper a tad.

There was still a bit of drama in store as Axar Patel opened up his scrawny shoulders and sent the ball flying to all corners in his 29-ball 44, but even Dravid knew that it was too late for Punjab. Eventually, his pensive look turned to something like a smile as a clean-shaven Zaheer herded his men off the field as assertively as he had marshalled them on it.

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