An inspired batting performance from the Delhi Daredevils wasn’t enough to grab a morale-boosting, yet academic win, as they were edged by the Royal Challengers Bangalore by four runs in a thrilling Indian Premier League (IPL) match.
Both teams maintained their positions in the points table — Bangalore in fourth and Delhi in eighth.
Twenty-year-old Unmukt Chand notched his highest score of IPL 2013, scoring 41 off 35 balls under pressure, but it wasn’t enough to prevent a 10th defeat of the season for his team.
This was before Virat Kohli (99 off 58 balls) fell one run short of what would have been a magnificent century on the last ball of RCB’s innings, while AB de Villiers (32 not out off 17 balls) played his usual death-overs cameo as the visitors posted an imposing 183 for four on the board.
The explosive pair shared a 93-run stand that came off just 40 balls after the Daredevils had done well in the first half of the innings. They pelted 77 runs in the last four overs to snatch away the initiative from the hosts, and this turned out to be the difference between the two teams in the end.
The Daredevils popped up a surprise at toss time when David Warner walked to the centre to join his counterpart Kohli, instead of Mahela Jayawardene. Perhaps they did it because Jayawardene would have to miss their next game in Chennai due to a political issue and wanted to give Warner some captaincy practice, or perhaps because Jayawardene had lost all the tosses at home this season. If it was the latter, the ploy worked as Warner won the toss and put the Royal Challengers in to bat considering the dew and because Delhi “like to chase”.
The Daredevils’ decision was justified straight away as Chris Gayle (4) dragged Irfan Pathan’s short and away-moving delivery onto his stumps in the second over of the innings. The big basher from Jamaica had smashed 128 not out from 67 balls in his last outing at the Kotla, so the Daredevils’ ecstasy on walking his back so early was understood.
Gayle’s opening partner, Cheteshwar Pujara, hit a few confident boundaries before himself being bowled by pacer Siddharth Kaul. The Daredevils would even have had another one if Morne Morkel hadn’t overstepped before finding Virat Kohli’s outside edge. But with RCB on 32 for two in the first five overs, DD would have been pleased with their efforts.
Captain Kohli’s last six games had gotten him scores of 1, 11, 1, 32, 25 and 14. Among the leading run-scorers in the early part of the tournament, he had gone through a minor slump and needed some runs under his belt. That’s exactly what he did today.
Kohli paced his innings a tad slower than he usually does in this shortest format, at least in the initial part of his innings, but more importantly provided the stability that was required for RCB after the two early wickets. Together with Moises Henriques, Kohli buoyed Bangalore out of deep waters and set them on towards a decent, if not big, total.
Kohli lost Henriques (26 off 22 balls) in the 14th over to a superb return catch taken by Shahbaz Nadeem as RCB’s run-rate dwindled a bit. Just 32 runs were scored between overs 10 and 16, as RCB reached 106 for three with four overs to go. And then, as if on cue, a switch flicked on.
De Villiers was down to his usual acrobatics at the crease — scooping, pulling, swatting and driving with ease. Kohli too let loose as he made a dash for what would be his first century this season. In the end, the 24-year-old was run out off the last ball after trying to sneak in a couple to get to three figures and flung his bat down in frustration. It wasn’t such a bad effort as he made it out to be — Kohli’s first 50 runs had come from 44 balls; the next 49 took just 14.
Chasing a difficult target, the experienced three batsmen in the Delhi top-order — Mahela Jayawardene (19), Virender Sehwag (18) and David Warner (4) — all got good starts, but failed to convert them into big ones, which was the need of the hour. In the end, it was left to young Chand, who had a point to prove after a disappointing start to the tournament, and the promising 32-year-old Ben Rohrer to try and wade the Daredevils out of trouble — an ask that proved to be too tall for the duo despite a determined effort.
Even though the hosts maintained a healthy run-rate throughout their innings, they lost a wicket every 20-25 runs and, as has been their pattern this season, left too much for the middle and lower-middle order to achieve. Chand and Rohrer temporarily resuscitated Delhi from 60 for three and put on 58 for the fourth wicket before Rohrer’s anxiety to keep up with the rate led to his wicket in the 15th over.
It all seemed done and dusted after Chand and Kedar Jadhav too fell in quick succession to make it 131 for six. But Irfan Pathan and Morne Morkel hadn’t had a final say as they forged a defiant stand to take Delhi inches from victory. From 51 required off 18 balls, the unlikely duo took the hosts to within 19 runs from a miraculous win with six balls left.
This reduced to nine off the last two after both batsmen hit Jaydev Unadkat for a boundary each. However, the left-handed pacer was to get his fifth wicket of the night with a screaming yorker that was too good for Morkel.
A difficult loss to digest it would have been, after coming so close. But you could say the match was lost when Kohli and de Villiers went berserk earlier.
Royal Challengers Bangalore 183 for 4 in 20 overs (Virat Kohli 99, AB de Villiers 32*; Shahbaz Nadeem 1 for 23) beat Delhi Daredevils 179 for 7 in 20 overs (Unmukt Chand 41, Ben Rohrer 32; Jaydev Unadkat 5 for 25) by 4 runs.