RAIPUR (TIP): A spirited performance on the field, followed by a resilient 95-run stand between David Warner and Unmukt Chand helped Delhi Daredevils add a third win to come level with Kolkata Knight Riders. Knight Riders are now level with Daredevils, squandering a two-point advantage. The task of making it to the playoffs, for both, remains a distant dream. Daredevils had been the happier side halfway into their innings.
The first couple of overs from Brett Lee and L Balaji indicated there was help for the bowlers, but Virender Sehwag laced a couple of boundaries to set the innings into motion. Gautam Gambhir spilled an easy chance off Sehwag at short cover, but it didn’t hurt Knight Riders much. Sehwag steered a length delivery into the hands of slip in the next over, the relief writ large on Gambhir’s face. And when Mahela Jayawardene fell in an identical manner the next over, Knight Riders had found an opening.
Unmukt Chand had a torrid time in his first four games, but he set about improving his run with a patient stay in the middle. He was at sea against Sunil Narine’s variations, but hung in and kept rotating the strike. Fortunately for Daredevils, there wasn’t much scoreboard pressure; only a couple of productive overs were needed to catch up with the required rate. That impetus was provided by measured aggression from David Warner, who pierced the boundary every now and then and helped bring the equation under control during the 12th over that yielded 15 runs.
By that time, Chand had settled down and started stroking boundaries – an upper-cut past slip being the most stylish – to bring up his best score this IPL. He fell trying to hasten the end but Warner, who scored his third half-century this IPL, switched gears, unleashed the ruthless strokeplay he’s acquired a reputation for and sealed victory with 13 balls to spare. Gambhir called the Raipur stadium one of the best in the country in terms of facilities, but the venue didn’t bring any cheer for Knight Riders after they chose to bat.
Manvinder Bisla, who was in imperious touch in the last two matches, started with a casual pull that rocketed to the deep square-leg boundary, but, off the very next ball, Gambhir called him for a suicidal single and paid the price as Irfan, the bowler, beat him in a dash to the striker’s end. What followed was a period in which the Daredevils seamers – and the fielders – started shutting escape routes for the batsmen. Bisla was beaten for pace by a sharp delivery from Umesh Yadav. Yusuf Pathan attempted to mark his authority with a huge hit off Morne Morkel, but was brilliantly caught next ball by Irfan, who took the skier running backwards from square leg.
That brought the experienced pair of Jacques Kallis and Eoin Morgan together, but their alliance was short-lived. Morgan reverseswept Shahbaz Nadeem for a boundary, but when he tried to pull the long-hop next ball, Yadav charged in from deep square leg to take a good, low diving catch. Kallis followed Morgan in the next over, as another stunning, one-handed catch at point, from Ben Rohrer, reduced Knight Riders to 50 for 4 in the ninth over.
Debabrata Das and Rajat Bhatia started the repair job, making slow progress with occasional hits to the boundary to bring Knight Riders to 83 for 5 with five overs to go. They hobbled to 110 for 6 at the end of the 18th, but some timely hitting by Lee propped up the score to 136, a good effort on a ground with bigger boundaries. It wasn’t good enough, however.