A little over 45,000 people, most of whom had travelled the best part of 45 kilometres, set up the perfect atmosphere for a Pepsi Indian Premier League match at the Shaheed Veer Narayan Singh stadium in Raipur on Sunday night. India's newest venue ensured that even the prospect of the bottom two teams did not dampen the enthusiasm and both Delhi Daredevils and Pune Warriors lifted their game to suit the occasion. It was Delhi who prevailed, by 15 runs, keeping their campaign in the tournament alive.
Having lost seven of their eight games so far, Delhi understandably rang in the changes. This did not really help at the start, though, as Mahela Jayawardene fell with the team score on 20, yet another poor start from the openers. Virender Sehwag got going, but gloved an Ashok Dinda bouncer to the keeper just when he was looking good for a big innings. At 68 for 3, with Unmukt Chand failing to shine once more, Delhi were in proper danger of messing up.
David Warner, who was shifted down to No. 4 to ensure that the Delhi batting was not excessively top-heavy, played his part to perfection. Cautious to begin with, Warner stuck to his game plan, swinging hard only when the ball was in his arc, and pounded four fours and as many sixes in an unbeaten 51 off only 25 balls to lift Delhi to 164. Warner was especially majestic when he cleared his front leg, giving himself room to free his arms and hit high, wide and handsome into the stands down the ground. As many as 96 runs had come from the second half of the innings, and gave Delhi's bowlers enough runs to work with.
Pune, who had no doubt attentively watched Delhi's progress in the first half, laid a platform through the industrious Aaron Finch and an unusually subdued Robin Uthappa. Delhi's bowlers were guilty of drifting onto the pads too often, and Uthappa and Finch added 76 before a brace of blows against the run of play restored parity. Uthappa (37) hit a terrible delivery down leg to fine-leg where Chand took an excellent tumbling catch. Pathan sent another ball down leg, and was again rewarded as Finch (37) was adjudged caught behind when the ball had merely brushed his hip on the way to the keeper.
Yuvraj Singh got going with a tickle past the keeper for four and soon was in his element, sending the ball sizzling across the turf on the off side against the quick bowlers. Pathan was smashed past cover, an on-the-rise crunched drive that left the sweeper on the off side with no chance. Soon after Warner, at point, was on the wrong side of a full-blooded square-drive that burst through the fielder's hands. Yuvraj, who has always enjoyed the feel of the ball coming onto bat nicely, took Pune within kissing distance of the target, but holed out trying to play a big pull shot. Yuvraj, who had made 31, departed with Pune still needing 25 from 12 balls. As hard as the flailing lower order swung, they fell short, losing by 15 runs. The win meant that Delhi and Pune exchanged places at the bottom of the table.
Story first published on: Sunday, 28 April 2013 20:02 IST