New Delhi: 'Captain's knock' is often an overused comment, but it's probably the most apt way to describe Gautam Gambhir's innings for the Delhi Daredevils on Saturday. On a swinging track and chasing a mid-level target, it was Gambhir's well-paced knock that made the difference. The Chargers had in the opening game faced a similar target and made had a hash of it. Gambhir though was not prepared to let Delhi take that road. So he fought dehydration and a muscle pull to make sure that he almost carried his bat through and took Delhi to safety.
Gambhir's knock and the partnership with Mithun Manhas brought Delhi Daredevils from doubting content_cnion into firm command. Even though Delhi was chasing a relatively low target of 143, they were caught in a precarious state with four down for 79 runs in the 13th over. In the three partnerships that saw Delhi home, Gambhir was the mainstay. His 72 off 54 balls included nine fours, one six and a lot of running between the wickets. Most people forget the importance of picking up the singles and twos, but it was these runs collected by the skipper on Saturday that made the difference between the two sides.
Credit must also be given to the Punjab boys for putting up a strong fight. S Sreesanth's return and the form he displayed was very heartening to see. But the Kings missed quite a few run outs and almost none of their direct throws at the stumps were on target. There were also instances of misfields and overthrows and that cost them dear, not to mention the catch that Irfan Pathan dropped in the penultimate over. That one catch could have decisively swung the game in Punjab's favour and unlike his brother Yusuf, who went down fighting in the game against Mumbai Indians earlier in the day, Irfan will be kicking himself for having spilled a catch he should have been able to take in his sleep.
Bowlers from both sides put up a commendable display. They were incisive, asked questions to the batsmen, spinners flighted the ball and had an extremely disciplined approach. The wicket was not an easy one for the batsmen and had some juice for the bowlers and the extracted it to the maximum.
The batting though was outrightly disappointing. After the Mumbai vs Rajasthan game where both teams went hammer and tongs, the Delhi-Punjab game seemed to drag a little. The Punjab batsmen in particular hadn't done their homework well and even senior players failed to read the spinners. They will have to immediately hit the drawing board as they next play Bangalore in an away game on Tuesday. Anil Kumble will prove to be a handful if they do not get their basics right.
Delhi too will have to regroup soon and sort out their issues. They leaked precious runs in the field, made a couple of bad calls while running between the wickets and the top order barring Gambhir failed to really get going. They have their next game against the Rajasthan Royals on Monday at the Motera Stadium in Ahmedabad. The track is expected to be a belter and is just the right venue for Virender Sehwag, Tilekaratne Dilshan and AB de Villiers to join in the party along with Gambhir.
There was nothing much to choose from between the two sides today. It could have been anyone's game. But the gallant Gambhir was the one who made the difference. He had not only a knock to get, but a role to play. And that he played to perfection!