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The Delhi Daredevils continued to maintain their strangehold at the top of Indian Premier League table, but needed some late heroics from their significantly under-rated bowling unit to sneak home a narrow 1-run win against the Rajasthan Royals in the early kick-off on Sunday. A bare pitch, significantly different from the one which has generated run feasts so far at the Feroz Shah Kotla greeted the two sides with Delhi batting first and posting a competitive 152/6 on the back of yet another half-century from Super Skipper Virender Sehwag (63 from 39 balls). None of the other Delhi batsmen managed to get past 30 and largely struggled to come to terms with the pace of the pitch. Rajasthan Royals appeared to have no such worries early in their chase as Ajinkya Rahane (84*) and Rahul Dravid (40) shared in a 99-run opening wicket stand. The game appeared to be in the bag for Rajasthan as they needed 15 to win from 2 overs, but a brilliant over from purple cap holder Morne Morkel which conceded just 3 runs and picked up the crucial wicket of Brad Hodge (22) tilted the balance in Delhi's favour. The match ultimately came down to 2 runs to win from the last ball, but the Royals failed to even get the tieing run with Owais Shah getting run out.
A massive crowd streamed into the Feroz Shah Kotla on Sunday as the table topping Delhi Daredevils welcomed the Rajasthan Royals for match no.39 of the IPL season. Both teams welcomed back members of the victorious Australian side which downed the West Indies 2-0 in the recently concluded test series. The Delhi Daredevils had David Warner back, but opted not to use him today as they predictably named an unchanged eleven from their thumping of Mumbai just a couple of days ago. Rajasthan meanwhile also resisted temptation, leaving out Shane Watson from their starting eleven, keeping faith in their foreign batsmen Owais Shah and Brad Hodge.
The flip of the coin went Virender Sehwag's way, and the Delhi skipper had no hesitation in opting to make first use of a batsmen friendly pitch. Early breakthroughs had to be the mantra for Rajasthan, otherwise another 200+ total could be on the cards at Kotla.
Delhi made a rare sedate start by their expansive standards, stumbling to 42/2 at the end of the mandatory powerplay. Rahul Dravid got his tactics spot on, opening the bowling with Ankit Chauhan and Pankaj Singh. The left-arm spinner, Chauhan, almost got Sehwag in the first over with an inside edge from the Delhi skipper narrowly evading the stumps. Pankaj though got things going for Rajasthan in the next over with Mahela Jayawardene's attempted sweep off the seamer finding Brad Hogg on the square leg boundary. The Lankan skipper fell for 6.
Chauhan then snapped up the big wicket of Kevin Pietersen for 5 in the very next over, caught by Dravid at slip. Rahul's decision though to pull Chauhan out of the attack might have been a slight error in judgement with Delhi getting back on track by taking 23 runs off the next 3 overs.
Sehwag was keeping the runs flowing from one end, racing along to 41 from 29 balls, while Ross Taylor was struggling with his timing, making 7 from 15 balls as Delhi made their way into the strategic time out at 62/2 from 9 overs.
Sehwag came out of the time out looking to accelerate further, and powered the score along to 99 before falling to the guile of Brad Hogg, brilliantly caught by a diving Ashok Menaria pattroling the cover boundary. His 38-ball innings of 63 was his fourth consecutive half-century of the tournament. With 7 overs still left in the Delhi innings, a score in excess of 160 was looking unlikely.
The tide continued to turn against Delhi with Ross Taylor falling in the next over after making a painstaking 25 from 35 balls, bowled by Pankaj Singh, the ball cliping the Kiwi skipper's leg stump after he had shuffled too far across. Yogesh Nagar, who had come out to replace Sehwag was struggling to put bat and ball, and despite Naman Ojha planting a Brad Hogg delivery into the sidescreen, boundaries were suddenly at a premium. Ojha fell for 11 in the 18th over, and Delhi were genuinely struggling at 125/5.
However, a late flourish from Yogesh Nagar (27) saw Delhi steal 20 runs in the final over to push their score past 150. At 152/6, the match was very evenly poised, and Rajasthan had every change of leaving the capital with maximum points.
The first 6 overs were always going to be key in the run chase with the ball likely to come on to the bat only for a brief period. Four boundaries in the first three overs saw Rajashtan race to 22 before Morne Morkel pegged things back briefly with a tight opening over. Rajasthan though finished the powerplay strongly with Morkel conceding 10 runs in his second over. The Royals matched Delhi's start by posting 40 runs on the board, crucially without the loss of any wickets.
The Royals were in complete control of proceedings out in the middle and the opening partnership continued unabated as Rahul Dravid and Ajinkya Rahane reached 78/0 at the end of 11 overs. Rahane after a sedate start had accelerated once the field spread and brought up his half-century in the 13th over, with a tickle to the fine-leg boundary. Dravid meanwhile had been struggling with a calf strain, and looked to take the aerial route in an attempt to maximize the output in his limited time left in the middle. The legendary batsman finally perished for 40, caught brilliantly by Ajit Agarkar at the long-on fence on the dead run off Irfan Pathan.
Rajasthan pushed Brad Hodge up to no.3 to ensure that a level head was out there in the middle, the Royals were 100/1 in 14 overs and needed another 53 to win from 36 balls.
The next two overs contributed 17 to Rajasthan's cause bringing the equation down to 36 from 24. Rahane was controlling the pace of the chase expertly, picking up a boundary per over to ensure that the asking rate never got away from the Royals. Hodge took 6-7 balls to play himself in, and then joined in the fun by carting Morne Morkel over extra cover for a boundary. Two more fours off consecutive balls to open the 18th over from Hodge brought the equation down to nearly a run a ball. Delhi managed to squeeze some pressure on Rajasthan late in the contest with only 3 runs coming from the next 8 balls. Morkel conceded 3 runs from the penultimate over of the match and took the bonus wicket of Hodge (22) on the last ball to leave Rajasthan needing 12 to win from the last over.
Umesh Yadav took the ball as Ajinkya Rahane, who was batting on 75 was joined by Owais Shah. Two runs from the first three balls meant that Rajasthan now needed 10 from 3. Rahane brought the game back into the balance by slicing the next ball over point for 6. A deuce on the 5th ball meant Rajasthan needed 2 from the last ball for a win, with a single guaranteed to send the match into a super over. However, an effort ball from Umesh Yadav sneaked past Rahane's bat and Owais Shah's attempt to steal a bye was beaten by a direct hit from wicketkeeper Naman Ojha, giving Delhi an incredible 1 run win.
The teams will have little time to dwell on what happened in this game as they face each other again in a couple of days time in Jaipur as Delhi head over to the fortress that is the Sawai Man Singh stadium. That match will also be Kevin Pietersen's last match for Delhi before heading back home for the upcoming series against the West Indies, and the Daredevils will want to give him a fond farewell.
Delhi: V Sehwag, M Jayawardene, K Pietersen, I Pathan, N Ojha (wk), R Taylor, Y Nagar, A Agarkar, M Morkel, U Yadav, S Nadeem.
Rajasthan: R Dravid, A Rahane, O Shah, S Goswami (wk), A Menaria, B Hodge, K Cooper, B Hogg, A Chavan, A Singh, P Singh.
Delhi Daredevils 152/6 (20 overs, 7.6rpo)
V Sehwag 63 (39) P Singh 2-25
Y Nagar 27 (20) A Singh 2-41
Rajasthan Royals 151/3 (20 overs, 7.55rpo)
A Rahane 84* (63) I Pathan 1-27
R Dravid 40 (38) M Morkel 1-26
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