The arc of the Stuart Binnys swipe began from second slip and aimed eagerly towards midwicket. The willow,once slipping out of Binnys grasp,landed somewhere towards where it was pointed,while the ball having taken a thick edge off the bat before its flight crashed into the third man fence. Immediately,the grotesque monophonic sound now synonymous with this event tore through the evening sky,bringing the crowds to its feet even as the big screen captured the starlet-co-owner of the Rajasthan Royals breaking into a hearty cackle.
This was the very essence of the Pepsi Indian Premier League in a nutshell. This,however,was also the turning point of the match held at the Ferozeshah Kotla on Saturday.
Wafer-thin middle order
Before that ball was bowled,the Rajasthan Royals were a 108 for two from 14 overs. At that point,a very edgy and out-of-character Rahul Dravid,one who had taken a great deal of risk through the course of his innings,was batting one short of his fifty. At the other end,opener Ajinkya Rahane had fallen a few overs back for 28 runs to expose a wafer-thin middle-order. Binny,after all,was batting as high as number four.
To completely tilt things in his favour,Mahela Jayawardene,captain of the Delhi Daredevils,introduced the wily Johan Botha into the attack in the 15th over. Botha of course knew just what it took to bowl to the likes of Binny and Dravid,having been a part of the Royals set-up for the last five seasons.
But the aforementioned first ball seemed to have unsettled him,for Binny collared him for two sixes in the next two balls. The first was whistled over midwicket with a slog-sweep,the second was an inside-out punch over long-off. Bothas first three balls had cost 16 runs and the over the most expensive of the match produced 19.
In hindsight,had that Botha over (his only one) not happened,Rajasthan would have accumulated a total somewhere in the high 140s something that Delhi and their opener David Warner would have toppled rather easily. Instead,they ended with 165,thanks to Binnys free hitting 40. It was the last double-digit score of the innings,for the Rajasthan middle-order finished with 5,2,1,0 and 1. Botha,though,would have another chance at the end of the game to redeem himself.
Just like with the Rajasthan innings,the top-four Delhi batsman got themselves starts. David Warner led the list with 77,while Unmukt Chand scored 23,Jayawardene 19 and Manprit Juneja 20. But now,at the fall of Warners wicket (a needless run-out in the penultimate over) in walked Botha. Now,it was Delhis turn to prove that its spine was stronger than its counter-part. We fast-forward to the last over of the day,with the Daredevils needing a very achievable nine runs from six balls and six wickets in hand.
First ball,Kevon Cooper to Botha. One run,driven to long-on. Eight to win off five. Ball two,Trinidadian Cooper to Jamaican Andre Russell. One run,sliced to mid-wicket. Seven to win from four balls. Surely not a never-seen-before situation in the IPL,right? Wrong. Botha proved that experience counts for very little if one pre-meditates a reverse sweep to a full,fast and straight ball.
Cooper coup de grâce
If Bothas LBW was bad,then Russells dismissal was cringe-worthy. After new man Irfan Pathan stole a single to reduce the equation to seven runs from two balls,Russell walked right across his stumps to a bowler who was yet to miss his yorker this over. The stumps went for a walk,as did Delhis chances.
In the end,Rajasthans part-time pacer Coopers figures of 3/30 counted while Delhis genuine quick Umesh Yadavs 4/24 didnt. Similarly,a 65 by a rusty Dravid who employed those sacrilegious cross-batted hoicks that he would otherwise look down upon was the clincher in this game while a flowing 77 by Warner wasnt.