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Nerveless Nair steers Delhi home in thriller

Wisden India logo Wisden India 20-05-2016

Everyone in the Sunrisers Hyderabad camp would’ve felt that it was going to be tough without Ashish Nehra at this stage of their Indian Premier League campaign. On Friday (May 20) they knew.

In the absence of their paceman, who was ruled out with a hamstring injury after a largely successful run, Hyderabad’s bowling unit looked a tad under-prepared as a young Delhi Daredevils batting unit registered a six-wicket win off the final delivery at the Shaheed Veer Narayan Singh International Cricket Stadium in Raipur.

Winning the toss and opting to bowl first, Delhi restricted Hyderabad to 158 for 7 despite a 56-ball 73 from David Warner, the Hyderabad skipper. In response, Delhi rode on a stunning batting display from Karun Nair, who smashed 83 not out off 59, to reach to 161 for 4 from 20 overs.

With this win, Delhi kept alive their hopes of making it to the playoffs with 14 points from 13 games, while Hyderabad remained on top of the table despite the defeat with 16 points from 13 games.

While the blame for this loss will fall on the shoulders of Hyderabad’s poor bowling display and their appalling fielding, it must be said that had it not been for a calculated assault from Nair and Rishabh Pant, they probably would have done a better job defending their score.

Nair, coming in at No. 3 after the early dismissal Quinton de Kock, came up with an intelligent knock that had three sixes and eight fours to carry Delhi through. Of course, he had some luck going his way as well, as he was given a reprieve in the ninth over when he appeared to bottom-edged Moises Henriques to Naman Ojha which the umpire deemed not out. He was also dropped by Warner at long-on when on 51.

Despite living on the edge he stuck it through, and that, to go with his ability to pull and drive with grace, was the highlight of the day. But Delhi need to credit more than just Nair for the win. He was ably aided by Pant, whose stand-and-deliver method earned him 32 runs from 26 deliveries. JP Duminy and Carlos Brathwaite chipped with cameos to ensure Delhi saw it through when it got a bit tricky in the end.

Delhi had their bowling unit to thank for keeping Hyderabad down to under 160 because anything over that would have required another gear. But it all started with two quality fielding displays to get Delhi going.

First up, it was Brathwaite and his Roger Harper-esque run out to send Shikhar Dhawan back. It wasn’t as fluid as Harper’s dismissal of Graham Gooch from the 1987 MCC bicentenary Test at the Lord’s, but that’s only because Brathwaite had to dive a fair distance to his left on his follow-through to stop the ball with his left hand before throwing down the stumps at the striker’s end with his right hand. Dhawan went from being sure of a run to sceptical and at that point he decided to turn back. He dropped his bat and dragged it along with a prayer on his lips but it remained unanswered as the stumps had been dismantled with his bat nearly two feet from the safe zone.

Then it was Amit Mishra, who ran Deepak Hooda out the very next over by taking down the single stump he had to shoot at from the angle off his own bowling, as Hyderabad went from 46 without loss to 48 for 2.

Hyderabad had no reason to fret though. Warner was warmed up and Yuvraj Singh had just walked in. Two among the most aggressive left-hand batsmen in the history of the game were in alliance. The possibilities were endless, but what followed was Yuvraj dragging a Brathwaite delivery from well outside off onto the stumps.

Having defended during the sticky phase, Warner’s strike-rate dropped significantly, but he raised a half-century from 40 balls doing exactly what was needed at that stage. Having stuck it through, he came to the party for the second time in the day, opening up those shoulders to send the fielders on a hunt.

Warner, having scored his seventh fifty this season, was looking set for a big score, but his penchant to go after anything short and wide cost him and his side dear. He slashed at one such delivery from Brathwaite in the 16th over and top-edged it straight to Mishra at third man. In his defence, the shot was on.

From there on, Eoin Morgan and the following batsmen made cameo contributions to carry the visitors to a decent total.

Stepping out to bat, it would have come as a boost for Delhi to know that both Nehra and Ben Cutting weren’t on the field because of injuries, but that didn’t mean they were off the hook.

Hyderabad still had the resources to get the job done and they showed up with that spirit to get rid of the de Kock early. Hyderabad, on the field without Warner for the first nine overs, would have assumed the worst was over. That was until Nair and Pant batted as though it didn’t matter who was bowling or where they landed it. They added 73 runs for the second wicket to bring Delhi within striking distance.

Delhi had enough in their ranks to hope for no further drama. But they were helped along by Hyderabad, who dropped two sitters — one off Nair on 51 and another off Duminy.

And still there was drama in the end as it came down to 11 to win off the last over to be bowled by Bhuvneshwar Kumar. Bhuvneshwar stuck to his role and kept it tight, but Nair was in the zone, smashing the last two deliveries for boundaries to seal a memorable win.

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