How Rajasthan Royals managed to lose only they will know, as Delhi Daredevils pulled off a narrow one-run victory in a match that went down to the last ball at the Ferozshah Kotla on Sunday. At one time in control of their chase of 153, Rajasthan needed 15 runs off the last two overs, with nine wickets in hand and the in-form Ajinkya Rahane at the crease. However, Morne Morkel bowled an excellent penultimate over, and though Rahane hit Rajasthan’s first six off the fourth ball of the final over to give them hope, he could not get the two runs required off the last ball, and in fact, did not even get a single to take the game to the Super Over.
The 19th over has often proved to be decisive in this year’s IPL, and that was the case once again. However, instead of a batsman going on the rampage, it was a bowler who took centrestage this time. Morkel – easily Delhi’s best bowler this season – conceded just 3 runs and dismissed Brad Hodge leg-before to put the pressure on the visitors, though he was lucky to get away with one down the leg-side that was inexplicably not called a wide.
With 12 needed off the final over, the match seemed to have swung back in Rajasthan’s favour when Rahane smacked a full toss from Umesh Yadav for a stunning six over point, bringing the equation down to 4 off 2 balls. However, he was unable to get any bat on the final delivery and Owais Shah was easily run out to leave them stranded at 151 for 3.
It was a scenario that had scarcely looked possible when Rahane, who remained unbeaten on 84, and skipper Rahul Dravid put up a largely untroubled 99-run opening stand to put Rajasthan on course for an easy chase. The wicket was on the slower side but boundaries came regularly enough without the batsmen taking too many risks, and Rajasthan reached the half-way stage at 67 for 0, with Dravid surprisingly the more aggressive of the pair. Rahane, meanwhile, continued his good form, finishing with 9 fours and a six, ensuring the calls for his inclusion into the national side will only get louder.
A breakthrough for Delhi looked unlikely, though there was a moment of confusion in the 12th over when umpire Rod Tucker gave Dravid out because he thought the batsman had walked. However, Irfan Pathan finally got his man when a good catch by Ajit Agarkar at long-on saw Dravid out for 40. Hodge (22) then joined Rahane at the crease and the two took Rajasthan close until Morkel dramatically turned things around.
Earlier, Rajasthan did well to keep Delhi down to a par 152 for 6. That score might have been even smaller, in fact, but for Yogesh Nagar hammering two sixes and a four off the final over of their innings, bowled by Amit Singh. The 20th over apart, however, Rajasthan’s bowlers were excellent and, marshalled well by Dravid, restricted a potent Delhi line-up that had made 207 for 5 in their previous game at home against Mumbai Indians.
Rajasthan must have feared a repeat was on the cards when Mahela Jayawardene began proceedings with a four off the first ball of the innings, but Delhi were soon pulled back by the loss of the Sri Lanka skipper and the dangerous Kevin Pietersen in successive overs. Jayawardene (6) found the man in the deep, trying to flick Pankaj Singh off the final ball of the second over, and six balls later, Ankeet Chavan had Pietersen caught by Dravid in the slips in his last game of the season at the Kotla.
It fell to Virender Sehwag and Ross Taylor to rebuild Delhi’s innings, and the captain led the way by becoming the first batsman to hit four consecutive IPL half-centuries, a 39-ball 63 peppered with 8 fours and 2 sixes. Brad Hogg, however, got his wicket just as the stage was set for a full-on assault, Ashok Menaria taking a good catch to leave Delhi at 99 for 3. Taylor (25) departed soon after, following which Hogg and Kevon Cooper – who went for just 19 in his 4 overs – ensured only 30 runs came off the five overs until Nagar (27) and Pathan took 20 runs from the last over took take Delhi past the 150-run mark.
In the end, those runs proved to be as crucial as Sehwag’s Man-of-the-Match innings, and despite Rahane’s efforts, Delhi snatched an unexpected win to reinforce their status as title favourites and consolidate their hold at the top of the table.