Rajat Bhatia, arguably the best allrounder in India’s domestic cricket, announced himself on the world stage tonight. Everything about Bhatia, his pace, his demeanour, his run-up, suggest an innocuous medium-pacer, but he was canny and deadly at the death, taking four wickets for four runs as Deccan Chargers choked to lose once again to Delhi Daredevils. Chasing 174 Deccan needed 25 in three overs, with six wickets in hand, but lost them all for just 12 runs.
When Bhatia came to bowl his final spell, Adam Gilchrist and Andrew Symonds had almost hit Delhi Daredevils into submission. After Gilchrist’s powerful 33-ball 64, Symonds had chased smartly, mixing the big sixes with chipped couples. Twenty-five from 18 looked as innocuous as Bhatia is reputed to be, but when Symonds was tricked by a slower one from Bhatia things became interesting.
Dwayne Smith was fooled by a slow legcutter two balls later, and the game had turned. A big choke followed as Venugopal Rao gloved an Ashish Nehra bouncer next over, and RP Singh ran himself out after failing to get bat to another bouncer. Soon Deccan found themselves needing 14 off the last over, and Bhatia was accurate with his slower balls again, removing Pragyan Ojha and Shoaib Maqsusi.
It was a night when Delhi’s domestic bowlers undid two Australian heavyweights. That Delhi could entertain hopes of winning the match despite the amazing hitting was thanks to the 18-year-old Pradeep Sangwan. When Sangwan came on to bowl, Deccan had raced to 30 in two overs. Sangwan removed T Suman in his first over, and claimed Rohit Sharma in his second, which was a maiden as well. Deccan scored 50 in the Powerplays, despite only three runs off two Sangwan overs.
If Sangwan seemed to be playing a different game from his colleagues, Gilchrist wasn’t too far off that either. Unlike Delhi’s domestic players, Deccan were hampered by their domestic batsmen who seemed to be caught in the headlights. By the strategy break, Gilchrist had peppered the leg-side boundary with five sixes between long-on and square-leg, scoring 63 from 31. Others – Suman, Rohit, Ravi Teja and extras – contributed 20.
It was Sangwan again who struck after that time-out, getting rid of Gilchrist with a yorker outside off, which the batsman played on. Still Gilchrist left the chase in able hands, Symonds, who came in at a surprisingly low No. 5. Right from the off, Symonds showed he was in great touch, hammering sixes and finding gaps in the field nonchalantly. With Delhi’s main bowlers bowled out, the chase seemed in the firm control of Symonds, until Bhatia struck out of the blue.
Dinesh Karthik’s blitz earlier in the day was not so out of the blue, yet it was surprising that he should provide Delhi the impetus. With Virender Sehwag back, the batting line-up looked imposing, and Gilchrist chose to take the bull by the horns by sending Delhi in.
His bowlers answered the call, his fielders didn’t, dropping three of their destructive batsmen. Chaminda Vaas got David Warner in his first over (Sehwag batted at No. 5) with a slower offcutter. RP should have extended his lead as the holder of the purple cap when he got Tillakaratne Dilshan to lob one straight to Rohit at gully. Straight out it came, and Dilshan punished Deccan after that.
Two more catches were dropped: AB de Villiers’ by Teja when he was seven, and a first-baller from Sehwag by Symonds. Although Sehwag didn’t hurt Deccan enough, Dilshan did severe damage and de Villiers capitalised as well.
de Villiers went on to score 44, but got out just before he could cut loose towards the final few overs. Dilshan, however, punished Shoaib Maqsusi. Inside the Powerplays, Dilshan scooped him for a four and a six in consecutive deliveries, and managed two more boundaries down the ground in what was tied with the most expensive over of the tournament, at 24 runs.
Vaas came pretty close of ridding his team-mate of the dubious honour, when he went for 23 in the last over of the innings. Karthik, who smote an unbeaten 23-ball 44, hit him for two huge sixes into the on side and a pleasing four over extra cover. Vaas added five wides from his side.