Walk in the park
Sticking to a concrete, seemingly progressive strategy is fine, but not at the expense of losing matches. While young batsmen like Sanju Samson and Rishabh Pant have blossomed for Delhi Daredevils, their four-match losing streak shows they simply lack the killer instinct; that winning mentality for success.
Not that Delhi are lightweight. They have arguably the best fast-bowling pack around. They have an all-rounder of Chris Morris’s calibre and a spinner of Amit Mishra’s experience and guile. Still, results are not forthcoming, and their performance on Friday were strewn with errors bordering on the hilarious.
Sample this. The excellent Kagiso Rabada dug one short and induced a leading edge from Robin Uthappa. It went high up in the region between short fine leg and square leg. Mishra called and then stopped. Samson halted his run and eventually, no one went for the catch. The ball landed safely between the fielders and Uthappa stole a single. Worse, no one had a go at the offenders, except Mishra reprimanding Samson. Dropped shoulders, pale faces and they got on with the game as if it was an occupational hazard. Shocking!
The match, then was still alive. But from that point onwards it never looked like they would be facing a fight. Both Gautam Gambhir and Uthappa gleefully marched on with a 108-run second wicket partnership. The skipper remained unbeaten on 71 off 52 balls, completing his 6,000 T20 runs in the process. Uthappa scored his second half-ton on the bounce before he was run out by a direct hit from Karun Nair.
Some shots stood out. Gambhir jumped out to a flighted delivery from Mishra and hit it inside out over extra cover for a four. Uthappa pulled Morris off the front foot over the long-leg fence and then sat deep in his crease and flicked a length ball over deep square leg.
Gambhir’s knock was bereft of an over boundary – 11 fours – but he encapsulated his mastery against spin, taking 20 runs off 12 balls against Mishra including four fours. All along it was a walk in the park for the marauding Kolkata against an insipid Delhi.
DD batting flatters to deceive
Earlier, Delhi’s batting once again flattered to deceive. Middle-over sloth and death-over crawl, by T20 standards, hurt them. Samson was batting with plenty of intent, starting off with a four and a brilliant six against Umesh Yadav. The young man was going at a rate of knots and it had been wonderful to watch; the timing, precision and placement. But Delhi began to stutter after Samson’s opening partner, Nair, got out.
Nair has been enduring a slump in form since his 303 not out against England at Chepauk last year. Back-to-back fours off Australian seamer Nathan Coulter-Nile, however, had flashes of brilliance. He was done in by a knuckle ball from Sunil Narine, attempting to play a sweep.
Still, Delhi were 53/1 after Powerplay, thanks to Samson, who was 30 off 16 balls then. The visitors had a perfect launching pad to pile a monstrous total. But they added just 30 more runs in the next five overs and the momentum was completely frittered away. Samson hit a six off Kuldeep Yadav to end a 46-ball streak without boundaries. Shreyas Iyer started to up the ante with a four and a six off Colin Grandhomme followed by another couple of fours against Yadav.
Samson elegantly dispatched the fast bowler over the deep mid-wicket boundary but invited his downfall next ball, playing a poor shot. Hitting across the line to a fast and straight delivery is always a low percentage shot. Samson made the mistake and was trapped in front.
Then, typical Delhi style, they started to lose wickets at the wrong time. Rishabh Pant— why isn’t he opening by the way —was unlucky to be adjudged leg before as Coulter-Nile’s inswinger to him from around the wicket would have missed the leg stump. Iyer departed four balls later and he was plumb in front. Yet again, Coulter-Nile over turned the game on its head. For a change, Morris, too, struggled to force the pace and Delhi could manage only 20 runs in the final four overs for the loss of two more wickets. The South African, somehow, couldn’t summon his wonted hitting skills.
Yes, Kolkata’s bowling, especially Coulter-Nile, was impeccably disciplined and at times intimidating too. Gambhir as usual was flawless in exercising his bowling options. But Delhi batsmen barely tried to throw down the gauntlet. IPL debutant Ankit Bawne shouldered arm to a Woakes outswinger in the 19th over. That just summed up Delhi’s affinity to ‘processes and cons’.
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