Synopsis: Buoyed by McCullum and Smith’s opening blitzkrieg, Gujarat Lions were off to a rollicking start before the South African duo of Imran Tahir and Chris Morris broke their momentum. However, Morris returned as a batsman to give Lions a mighty scare.
When Chris Morris walked into bat, Delhi needed 115 runs from a little more than nine overs. They had already lost four wickets, and the presence of JP Duminy was the only crumb of comfort for the home side. And judging by the manner in which they had batted so far, it gave little hope for Delhi’s fans. However, Morris had other plans.
The man, brought by the Daredevils for a whopping Rs 7 crore at this year’s auction, was about to unleash a well-orchestrated assault. The Protea would kick start his innings with a humongous six off James Faulkner. He then followed it up with three maximums in the following two overs — one off Dwayne Bravo — and two off leg spinner Praveen Tambe. In just three overs since his arrival, Morris had raced to 35 off just 13 deliveries, bringing the equation down to 57 runs from five overs.
With Duminy playing the anchor’s role to nicety, Daredevils were in with a chance. Apart from the Morris-Duminy stand, the dew and a wet outfield were troubling Gujarat’s bowlers. This meant Raina could not use his spinners any more, relying on Smith, Bravo and the experienced Praveen Kumar to finish the proceedings.
Sensing an opportunity, Morris, smashed Smith for three consecutive boundaries in the 17th over, to bring about his fifty. However, Duminy’s dismissal ended an incredible 87-run fifth wicket stand, which came off just 39 deliveries. However, the experienced Kumar kept his cool giving away only four runs in the penultimate over to keep Lions in the hunt.
When Bravo began the final over, Daredevils needed 14 runs. A mighty heave through point in the first delivery brought the equation down to 10 off 5 deliveries. At this stage, Morris looked like he had scripted the perfect chase for his side. In the end, Daredevils required a boundary off the last delivery, but Morris could only muster a double. His all-round efforts (82 not out off 32 deliveries), backed by his terrific four-over spell, was enough to help him win the Player-of-the-Match award.
PLAYING in just his second game this season, Gujarat Lions opener Dwayne Smith got his team off to yet another emphatic start. The first delivery he faced was a juicy half volley outside off stump, bowled at 128km/hr by Daredevils captain Zaheer Khan. Under the circumstances, in fact under any circumstances, you would have backed Smith to smash it. Which is exactly what the Barbadian did. Khan followed it up with one that was back off a length, but it fizzed off the bone dry turf. In an obvious attempt to fend it off, Smith got an outside edge, which flew past the third man region for a boundary. Two balls later, Khan bowled perhaps the best delivery of the over — a vicious outswinger, which Smith poked at. The ball flew between wicketkeeper Quinton De Kock and JP Duminy at second slip. Another delivery, and another boundary followed. Lions had now raced to 18 in their first over. Zaheer’s opening over was the most expensive in IPL so far.
It is often said that the opening over sets the tone in a T20 match. And this is precisely what happened — at least in the first 10 overs. Smith and his opening partner Brendon McCullum launched into Delhi’s bowlers, flaying them to all parts of the Feroz Shah Kotla. Playing at their belligerent best, the duo creamed 50 runs in less than four overs. Despite the enthralling opening stand, both Smith and McCullum gave the hosts some definite chances, which they fluffed. The most definite one came in the third over, when the 34-year-old bludgeoned a full-blooded cut shot to deep extra cover. Zaheer had precisely put Sanju Samson at that position to counter the Kiwi’s extravagant cut shots. However, Samson, standing couple of yards in front of the boundary line, misjudged it completely.
The introduction of Amit Mishra too did not help matters, as McCullum first cut him through point, and then followed it up with an extravagant reverse sweep, which brought up his third six. At the half way stage, Lions had raced past 100, looking poised to double their count at the end of their essay.
Saffers strike back
Daredevils staged a dramatic turnaround in the second half of the first innings. Captain Khan fell back on Imran Tahir. And the leg spinner did not disappoint. He first got rid of Smith, trapping him LBW for 53.
Smith’s dismissal brought in captain Suresh Raina. Sensing his weakness against the short pitched delivery, Khan brought back his quickest bowler — Chris Morris. The South African bent his back and worked up some good pace. He mixed his lengths cleverly, bowling a series of short deliveries aimed at Raina’s ribs. With his feet planted firmly in the crease, Lions’ captain was clearly rattled by Morris.
This was the defining passage of play in the first innings. Between Overs 10-12, Morris conceded only five runs, and picked up the wickets of McCullum and a rattled Raina. Despite getting the whack early on, the fast bowler finished with figures of 4-0-35-2. In the scheme of things, those were highly respectable figures.
After Morris’ burst, Zaheer sensed an opening , and brought back Tahir. Unlike in previous games, Tahir looked more patient. He varied his pace cleverly, got the ball to dip, and looked for wickets from the onset. The 37-year-old was amply rewarded for his efforts — removing an in-form Dinesh Kartik and Ishan Kishan — to halt all possibility of a late order resurgence. Gujarat managed only 62 runs in the last 10 overs, to help Daredevils stage a remarkable comeback in the game. With some in-form batsmen in the line-up, Daredevils looked confident of chasing down 173. Which they nearly did, thanks to Morris.