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The man of the match adjudicators were given a real workout on Tuesday evening - having to choose between two brilliant performances from Delhi skipper Virender Sehwag, who made yet another blistering half-century, and rookie left-arm spinner Pawan Negi, who ripped apart the Rajasthan Royals top order, and appropriately selected the teenager who took 4-18 to bowl Delhi to a massive 5 wicket win at the Sawai Man Singh Stadium. Batting first, the Royals made a blistering start with Rahul Dravid (57) and Ajinkya Rahane (42) sharing a 71 run stand for the opening wicket. However, Negi responded to his skipper's call by removing Rahane, Shane Watson, Brad Hodge and Ashok Menaria to decimate the Rajasthan top order. Rajasthan lost 4 wickets for 8 runs at one stage and never really recovered, meandering to a paltry 141/6 in their 20 overs on an excellent pitch. Just how good that wicket was fell on Viru's shoulders to exhibit as the Delhi opener scored his fifth straight half-century of the summer to guide his side to a comfortable win with almost 5 overs to spare.
After a thrilling one run victory over the Rajasthan Royals at the Feroz Shah Kotla in Delhi, the table topping Daredevils made the trip to fortress Jaipur to do battle in part 2 of this amazing double header. Both teams made just the one change to their sides with Australian powerhouse Shane Watson coming into the Rajasthan team for the injured Kevon Cooper, while Delhi brought spinner Pawan Negi in for veteran seamer Ajit Agarkar. The flip of the coin went Rahul Dravid's way, and the Rajasthan skipper opted to bat first.
Irfan Pathan had a new partner to share the new ball with, as Umesh Yadav attempted to regain some lost form by taking on Rajasthan's in-form top order. The classy Rajasthan opening pair of Ajinkya Rahane and Rahul Dravid continued to bat as if they had never left the Kotla at the weekend, playing some exceptional cricketing shots. Pathan was taken for 18 runs in his second over after Yadav went for 11 in his first. With 34 runs already on the board, Virender Sehwag threw the ball over to his bowling spearhead Morne Morkel in an attempt to at least stem the flow of runs. The batting exhibition continued unabated with Morkel's 2 overs for 10 runs the only thing that kept Rajasthan down to just 56/0 from the first 6 overs.
It was left-arm spin from both ends as Sehwag brought on Negi and Nadeem to bowl in tandem at the Rajasthan Royals openers. Negi struck a telling blow in his second over, removing the on-fire Ajinkya Rahane for 42 with the reverse sweep proving a poor choice of shot from the youngster. Shane Watson replaced Rahane and imposed himself on the game rather quickly by depositing a Nadeem delivery into the stands. At the midway stage of the innings, Rajasthan were very much on top at 80/1, and looking good for a score in excess of 180.
Negi though struck again in his next over, removing Watson for 8 before Umesh Yadav made a welcome return to the wickets column getting rid of Owais Shah to another poor shot to leave Rajasthan in a spot of bother at 90/3. Negi's dream run continued as he added two more wickets in his final over to leave the Royals in total disarray at 95/5. Brad Hodge fell for just 1, while Ashok Menaria made twice that many leaving the teenager with incredible figures of 4-18.
Rahul Dravid found a competent partner in wicketkeeper Shreevats Goswami, and the duo hung around till the 19th over, pushing the score up to 128 before Dravid inside-edged a Morkel delivery back onto his stumps to fall for a crucial 57. Goswami (18*) and Ankeet Chavan (7*) made sure the Royals posted some semblance of a score, finishing at a well under par 141/6.
It was a disappointing end to a promising start from the Royals, and very much advantage Delhi at the innings break.
Is there anything worse that a first ball duck? In T20 cricket there is. Rajasthan made the perfect start to defending a low total by getting rid of Mahela Jayawardene for a three ball duck to leave Delhi a wicket down without a run on the board. The Lankan skipper was trapped leg before by Chavan, with the ball seemingly on a date with the middle stump.
Virender Sehwag was in no mood to just hang around, hitting 5 consecutive boundaries over two overs to put the Daredevils on the right track. The runs flowed freely from the blade of the Indian opener, with him contributing 39 from 16 balls to a 50 run partnership that was achieved in 5 overs.
While Pietersen chipped in with a big stroke every now and again, this was Sehwag's party, and the Delhi skipper brought up his 5th consecutive half-century of the tournament in a way only he can - a six. The milestone was achieved in 20 deliveries his quickest of the five!
At the end of 10 overs, the Daredevils were 96/1, and with just 46 more runs required to win, the game looked as good as over.
Rajasthan though showed plenty of stomach for a fight with Aussies Shane Watson and Brad Hogg picking up wickets in consecutive overs. Watson removed Pietersen for a competent 36, caught on the long-off boundary, while Ross Taylor fell caught behind to Hogg for 6.
If anything, the loss of his batting partners only increased Sehwag's resolve to finish the game faster, and the Nawab of Najafgarh powered his way to a 38-ball 73 before falling to the guile of Brad Hogg, caught at backward point.
With just 11 runs needed from 32 balls, the Delhi duo of Naman Ojha (11*) and Yogesh Nagar (9*) decided to take the early flight home, taking just 4 balls to get the job done. Ojha finished the match with an almighty six as Delhi cruised past the finish line with almost 5 overs to spare.
Sadly this will be the last we see of the Delhi Daredevils this week with Sehwag's superstars taking a well deserved break before their next game on Monday the 7th of April at the Kotla. It will be interesting to see how Delhi cope with the loss of Pietersen and whether Mahela drops down to no.3 to accomodate David Warner at the top of the order. Rajasthan also have a few days rest. They will resume their quest for a last four berth when they meet the Kings XI Punjab in the 8pm game in Mohali on Saturday.
Rajasthan Royals: R Dravid (c), A Rahane, S Watson, O Shah, S Goswami (wk), B Hodge, A Menaria, B Hogg, A Chavan, A Singh, Pankaj Singh
Delhi Daredevils: V Sehwag (c), M Jayawardene, KP Pietersen, R Taylor, N Ojha (wk), I Pathan, Y Nagar, P Negi, M Morkel, S Nadeem, U Yadav
Rajasthan Royals 141/6 (20 overs, 7.05rpo)
R Dravid 57 (43) P Negi 4-18
A Rahane 42 (32) M Morkel 1-23
Delhi Daredevils 144/4 (15.2 overs, 9.4rpo)
V Sehwag 73 (38) B Hogg 2-32
K Pietersen 36 (34) S Watson 1-22
Delhi win by 6 wickets with 28 balls to spare
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