It was a nail-biter at the Kotla, to say the very least. The visiting team, Rajasthan Royals, needed 12 from the final six deliveries to go past home favourites Delhi Daredevils’ 184. With both leggies, Imran Tahir and Amit Mishra, having completed their spells, skipper JP Duminy tossed the ball to Sri Lankan all-rounder Angelo Mathews.
With two singles and a double of the first half of the over, Chris Morris and Tim Southee reduced the target to eight from three. Mathews had done well so far, and probably hoped for something better when he came around the stumps to induce an angle on to Morris’s pads. But the South African knew just where the empty spaces on the field were. Ever alert, he paddle swept a full delivery angling in over the ‘keeper’s head and for four past fine-leg.
Now four were needed from two. And Morris would’ve backed himself to finish it off, but Mathews bowled a ball that could only be driven to covers for a single. At this point, with Southee on strike and three to win of the last ball, Delhi had reason to believe that they could well pull off their first win of the season. And the delivery wasn’t bad either, full in length and hurtling towards Southee’s pads. But the Kiwi did something that few would’ve expected. He shifted his feet to make room for his bat and drove the ball powerfully past the covers fielder for four.
With this last ball win, Delhi have now lost 11 successive matches on the trot, equalling the old record set by Pune.
A royal find
It’s a bit early to call, but Deepak Hooda could well be Rajasthan’s find of the 2015 season. In his first game against Punjab, Hooda made a 15-ball 31, including three sixes. Sunday was quite similar. This time Hooda walked int at 78/4 and once again he had ten overs to bat. With Ajinkya Rahane batting on 34 at the other end, it was just a matter returning the strike to his senior partner, something Hooda did perfectly. He got his eye in by Ball 6, using his crease well to throw the opposition bowlers off their lengths.
Then he milked 17 from one Mathews over. His powerful strikes lifted Royals to 104/4 in 13 overs. In the fifteenth over, he faced Jaydev Unadkat and hit him for seven runs, nearly getting run-out in the process. But nothing stopped him from looking ahead, stitching a 52-run stand with Rahane — a stand that changed the complexion of the game. After Rahane got out, Royals still needed 54 in 29 balls. But Hooda didn’t fear. With Faulkner, he added another 36 and with a four of Coulter-Nile’s rising ball, the Indian reached his fifty. He was out shortly after, but the man had more than done his job, considering that in the first innings he had conceded just 20 runs in his spell of four over with the ball.
Far from chanceless
Hooda’s innings, though, wasn’t a flawless one. In the 14th over of the game, the batsman was nearly a victim to six-and-out. Having crushed Unadkat for a six over long-on of the previous ball, Hooda tried to repeat the act only to hit a low full-toss straight to Manoj Tiwary stationed at midwicket. Tiwary didn’t just end up dropping a sitter, the ball ended up ricocheting over the boundary ropes for six more. This, by the way, occurred an over after Yuvraj Singh had fluffed a run-out chance when Hooda was on 23. The batsman had pushed the ball to Mathews at point but Yuvraj fumbled the throw in dramatic fashion, allowing Hooda to make ground.
Imran Tahir seems to be playing a different match from the rest of his Delhi matces. In two matches, the South African leggie has figures of 1-27 and 4-28 to boast of. That too on tracks that hardly supported spin. And against Royals at the Kotla, he was the one bowler who constantly brought Delhi back into the game. Like when he bowled Rahane with a googly. That wicket came off the first ball of his third over, taking his figures at that point to 2.1-0-10-2.
DD seemed out of it once again before Tahir bowled the penultimate over. It was an eventful one. He dismissed Hooda first ball, was hit for a six by Morris off his second and had Faulkner bowled of yet another googly to end the over. At this stage, it was Delhi’s game to lose, which they eventually did. But Tahir can be spared the consequences of this loss.