‘Lions’ roar at Kotla : The match between Gujarat Lions (GL) and Delhi Daredevils (DD) played at Firoz Shah Kotla, could go down as the best contest in this edition of IPL, thus far.
Fortunes have been swinging either way throughout the game and the Lions, holding on to their nerves, had the last laugh.
The show began as a GL show, what with them being put into bat, by Zaheer Khan, went on a rampage scoring 110 runs without losing a wicket in the first 10 overs.
GL openers, Dwayne Smith and Brendon McCullum were scoring at their will sending the Kookaburra out to the stands, more often than not.
At half-way mark Smith was on 52 runs off 27 balls with 5 fours and 3 sixes while McCullum was on 57 runs in 33 balls with 6 fours and 3 sixes.
McCullum was the first to reach his half-century mark off 27 deliveries with the help of 5 fours and 3 sixes while Smith reached the landmark in 26 deliveries with 5 fours and 3 sixes. Smith’s was the faster fifty for GL this season, thus far. The earlier record was in the name of Aaron Finch who had reached the landmark in 32 deliveries.
Brendon was ‘dropped’ in the 3rd over by Sanju Samson at deep cover. Zaheer bowled one short and angling away from the batsman. McCullum tried to slap it over cover. Samson, who was a yard or two inside, mistimed the leap and failed to hold.
McCullum was lucky to receive another reprieve in the 11th over when Imran Tahir tossed one to him. The batsman wanted to send it to the orbit, but miscued and the ball ballooned up over mid off region. Rishabh Pant, making his IPL debut, ran in from long on while Tahir ran towards the ball from his follow through. While it looked like a possible collision between the players, both of them stopped abruptly and the ball dropped in between them.
However, a couple of deliveries later, a flipper from Tahir found its target in Smith, who tried to play it back and across, missed it completely and was plumb leg before. Umpire Marais Erasmus had no hesitation in lifting his index finger towards heaven, while Smith appeared to be displeased with the verdict.
Smith scored 53 runs off 30 deliveries with 5 fours and 3 sixes.
Chris Morris, who also had a poor start with the ball came back for his second spell and immediately proved effective. He was successful in removing the other danger man, McCullum.
He bowled a full toss which the batsman seemed to have played it a tad too early. The ball disturbed the furniture behind him. McCullum had scored 60 runs off 36 deliveries studded with 6 fours and 3 sixes at 166.66 strike rate.
Once the duo left, the scoring rate dropped drastically. GL, who, at one point of time looked to score 225+, dropped down to 132 runs for the loss of 4 wickets in 15 overs.
Wicket-keeper, Dinesh Karthik, whose unbeaten half-century helped GL win the previous encounter against RCB, could manage to score only 19 runs off 17 balls with a solitary four and six.
A rearguard heroics by James Faulkner (22, 13b, 2 fours) helped GL to register 172 runs for the loss of 6 wickets in 20 overs.
Imran Tahir (4-0-24-3) and Chris Morris (4-0-35-2) were the most successful bowlers.
Target of 173 was achievable but was not going to be easy.
However, disaster struck DD, with them losing three top batsmen, Sanju Samson (1), Quinton de Kock (5) and Karun Nair (9) with just 16 runs on the board in 4 overs.
The ever dependable JP Duminy in the company of the debutant, Rishabh Pant, prevented the slide, as they both added 41 runs in 6.4 overs for the fourth wicket with Pant being dismissed for 20 runs off 17 deliveries with a couple of fours.
It was purely Chris Morris show thereafter. After a decent outing with the ball, Morris displayed his proficiency with the bat.
Alongwith Duminy, he added 57 runs in 6.3 overs for the fifth wicket. Both were going ‘great guns’ when Dwayne Bravo struck. A slow off-cutter that landed on good length on the middle stump, which Duminy wanted to swing over the midwicket, succeeded only in gaining the height and not the distance.
Bravo, running back after the follow through took an easy catch. Duminy had notched up 48 runs off 43 deliveries with the help of 3 fours and a six.
The game saw fortunes switching from side to side and it was nearing a grand finish. DD were 144 runs for the loss of 4 wickets at the end of 17.1 overs when Duminy departed. They needed 29 more runs in 17 deliveries with Chris Morris unbeaten on 59 runs. He reached his half-century with a huge six off Dwayne Smith on the 2nd delivery of the 17th over. He had faced 41 deliveries and had 3 fours and 2 sixes.
Morris succeeded in keeping strike to himself since there was not much of a batting to come in and support.
At the situation of 14 runs needed from the last six deliveries, Morris scored a boundary and a single of the first two deliveries. Young Negi managed to score a single and give the strike back to Morris, who scored a couple each from the next two deliveries.
Four runs were needed off the last ball to pull off what would have been a sensational victory. Bravo, the death-over specialist, bowled one full and straight into the ‘block hole’ on the middle stump, which Morris swung towards long on and scrambled for a run and turned for the second. He found Ravindra Jadeja, undoubtedly the best fielder in the circuit, decided to abandon the idea of a third run.
These two runs left DD one run short of the GL score.
Morris, playing the innings of his life time, ended up scoring an unbeaten 82* runs off just 32 deliveries studded with 4 fours and 8 sixes at a whooping 256.25 strike rate.
For GL, except McCullum, Ishan Kishan and Dinesh Karthik, all others rolled over their arms and also ended pretty costly with the 44-year old Praveen Tambe giving away 17 runs in the only over he bowled.
GL won the nail-biter by a solitary run.
For his heroics, Chris Morris was adjudged the Player of the Match, from the losing side, a second incident after RCB skipper, Virat Kohli was honoured for his unbeaten maiden T20 century in the game against GL, a few days ago.
Speaking at the post-match presentation ceremony, Morris said, “Upset we couldn”t get there, but happy that I could contribute. I was quite lucky, it was one of those nights where I timed and it flew off the middle of the bat. It”s been a lot of practice on my batting over the last couple of months. I asked Rahul when I came in, he said just have a go. You want to be winning tight games like that, unfortunately we were on the wrong side tonight. This was definitely one of the best T20 games I”ve been involved in.”
Zaheer Khan, skipper of DD said, “Great game, we can take a lot of positives.To pull it back after McCullum and Dwayne Smith went berserk was special. Great spirit shown by the boys to pull it back with both bat and ball. It was anyone”s game. The way Morris was batting, we thought he will finish it. JP batted brilliantly. Despite the slow start, we came so close. That”s what is special about this team. We created opportunities on the field, certain things didn”t go our way. Morris bowling that one over turned the game around on the field, and with the bat, the big partnership brought us back. There are lots of positives. There”s still a long way to go. We need to keep the morale high.”
A visibly relieved Suresh Raina, skipper GL, said, “I think Morris batted well. When he was batting, I thought we”d lose this game from the 15th over. PK bowled superbly, and then Bravo was outstanding. We were under pressure with the dew, but credit goes to Faulkner for giving us the breakthrough of Rishabh Pant. Tambe, I thought could have bowled two, but Morris hit in him in his first. Then I went to Smith, who was also hit. PK has been executing the yorkers well, Dhawal was equally good. Credit goes to Heath Streak for working hard with the bowlers.”