Billings’ flashy start, Anderson’s late flourish propel DD to a commanding total. Their exploits are well complemented by left-arm spinner Shahbaz Nadeem.
Flashy start, late flourish
In a flash, Sam Billings was down on one knee. Then, nonchalantly, he shuffled across and swiped a fairly fullish delivery outside the off-stump to the square-leg fence. That shot was, under the circumstances, outrageous. More so as it was off a pacer — the particular delivery of Sandeep Sharma clocked 134kmph. The ease with which the Englishman got into the position to unfurl the shot demonstrated his supreme confidence. No wonder then that Billings is hot pick among franchises across the world. The 25-year-old’s batsmanship is primarily based on such unorthodox shots. However, this is one aspect that had also proved to be his undoing. On most occasions, he would often kick-start his innings in belligerent manner, and then would inexplicably squander his wicket. In seven IPL innings for the Delhi Daredevils, spread across two editions, he had only a single half century to brag about.
That came on a warm evening at the Feroz Shah Kotla. His 40-ball 55 against the Kings XI Punjab was replete with such instances of belligerence and audacity. The swipe off Sandeep came in Delhi’s third over, and set the tone. After denting Sandeep’s confidence, Billings danced down the track to collect three consecutive boundaries off scattergun Varun Aaron. In the middle overs, when Delhi lost a couple of quick wickets, Billings would tone his aggression down. He would, however, keep the scoreboard ticking with a series of singles.
After crossing the landmark in the 12th over, Billings holed out in the deep off Axar Patel’s bowling. Barring Karun Nair, all the Delhi batsmen got off to starts, but no one really cashed in. They were hoping Billings would be their man. But that did not happen. The flurry of wickets in the middle overs however, did not stall Delhi. A torrent of lusty hits towards the end from all-rounder Corey Anderson helped their cause. The Kiwi collected 22 runs off the last four balls he faced, which propelled Delhi to a challenging 188/6 after taking first strike on a sluggish Kotla track.
Nadeem comes to party
Punjab opener Manan Vohra’s eyes would probably have lit up when he saw Delhi’s left-arm spinner Shahbaz Nadeem being employed in the second over of the chase. In a team, which boasts of an impressive line-up of quicks such as Patrick Cummins, Chris Morris and captain Zaheer Khan, Nadeem was probably the last bowler Manan would have expected to face so early. In pursuit of 189, and with the fine-leg fielder stationed inside the 30-yard circle, Manan looked to unleash himself.
Nadeem, however, was up to the challenge. In the fourth delivery of his opening over, he darted a skidder, which Manan looked to paddle sweep past the fine-leg fielder. All he had managed to do in the end was to get trapped right in front. Delhi had struck a very decisive blow early on. Nadeem was not done yet. In the next over, he snaffled Punjab’s wicket-keeper Wriddhiman Saha, to put enormous strife on their big-hitting overseas batsmen lined up in the dug-out. With over 100 scalps in the last two Ranji seasons, the Jharkhand tweaker has impressed the selectors with his astuteness and skill. Playing with a bevy of overseas players in the IPL has improved his game by several notches.
All these traits were on display on Saturday night, as his two-over burst derailed Punjab’s chase.On a sluggish track, Punjab’s middle-order batsmen found the going tough. Eoin Morgan and David Miller looked to restore normalcy after the early setbacks. They had added 35 runs for the fourth wicket, but the twin dismissals of Morgan and captain Glenn Maxwell ended their hopes for good. Punjab would eventually go down by 61 runs.