This was one of those rare Twenty20 games where brilliant fielding proved the decisive factor, as Delhi Daredevils beat Kolkata Knight Riders by seven wickets at the Shaheed Veer Narayan Singh Stadium in Raipur last night.
The Delhi opening bowler Irfan Pathan was in action in the second ball of the innings itself even before the full house, in excess of 45,000, had settled down after Kolkata captain Gautam Gambhir won the toss of what was their home game.
Manvinder Bisla was struck on the pad, and Gambhir set off only to be outpaced by Irfan, who scooped the ball up in his follow-through and threw down the stumps. If Pathan's presence of mind ensured Gambhir was dismissed without facing a ball, his spell of 1-16 lifted the team visibly, and forced Kolkata on the backfoot.
Bisla attempted an ambitious inside-out shot off an express delivery from Umesh Yadav that flattened the off stump.
Yusuf Pathan, short of runs this season, connected cleanly off consecutive Ashish Nehra deliveries, glancing and hitting back down the ground for fours.
Morne Morkel then got the treatment, as a length ball disappeared into the stands at long-on.
Irfan was back in action when, attempting an encore, Yusuf speared a ball high and wide, and the crowd held its breath as Irfan tracked down the swirler. Running full tilt, he caught Yusuf, his half-brother, to reduce Kolkata to 37 for three. Eoin Morgan swung the left-arm spin of Shahbaz Nadeem to the deep, and on most days would have been safe, but Yadav, sprinting around, held on to an excellent tumbling catch.
If any confirmation was needed that Delhi were not in a frame of mind to miss even half-chances, it came from Ben Roehrer, who timed his leap perfectly at point to take a stunning one-handed catch off Jacques Kallis to leave the Kolkata innings in tatters at 50 for five.
Rajat Bhatia and Sumit Narwal, both of whom play their cricket in Delhi, staged a recovery of sorts. Narwal (23) took his chances and Bhatia (26 not out) was composed as Kolkata pushed the score to 136.
Virender Sehwag was let off early as Delhi started the chase, when Gambhir dropped a sitter, but it did not prove costly as he edged Kallis to Yusuf at slip on 17. Mahela Jayawardene poked at L Balaji and was also taken at slip.
Unmukt Chand struggled to lay bat to ball against Sunil Narine, but accumulated runs while David Warner took control of the chase.
With 110 needed from 95 balls, all Delhi needed was for one of their batsmen to bat long. Warner did so, racking up an impressive unbeaten 62 to see his team home.
Anand Vasu is managing editor at Wisden India.
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