New Delhi: Deccan Chargers dropped Kevin Pietersen three times on his way to 103, the second century of IPL 2012. It was an innings that condemned Chargers to their fourth defeat this season and left them winless at the bottom of the table. After taking three early wickets in defense of a below-par score of 157, Chargers were on course to turn their fortunes around, but Pietersen denied them. He took Delhi Daredevils to the top of the table with his authoritative knock, his highest score in Twenty20 cricket and hit the most sixes in an IPL innings this season - nine - in the process.
Daredevils held the advantage from the halfway mark. Left-arm spinner Shahbaz Nadeem and Morne Morkel took three wickets apiece to keep to pull Chargers back from 101 for 2 after 11 overs. Despite another spell of fury from Dale Steyn, Chargers were unable to keep Daredevils from joining Rajasthan Royals at the top of the table, with a game in hand.
Chargers began strongly in the field when Naman Ojha looked to launch IPL debutant Veer Pratap Singh over the off side but was caught by JP Duminy. It brought Pietersen to the crease earlier than expected and he could have been sent back off the second ball he faced. Steyn bowled an inswinger that cut Pietersen in half as it beat him but Pietersen responded by flicking Steyn for four through midwicket. The next over Pietersen pulled Steyn to short midwicket where Bharat Chipli should have taken the catch to send him on his way for six, but spilled it.
Chipli would have felt a little better to see Virender Sehwag caught at second slip off the next ball and Mahela Jayawardene caught by Kumar Sangakkara in the next over. His relief was short-lived though, as he misfielded when Pietersen drilled a ball through the covers for four soon after.
Sangakarra brought on a slew of spinners - JP Duminy, Amit Mishra and Ankit Sharma - and Pietersen feasted on all of them. His first six came off Mishra, who he charged before smacking over his head, in an over in which he scored 14 runs.
When Ross Taylor was run out, Chargers had Daredevils cornered on 83 for 4 after 13 overs but Pietersen turned things around by mauling Duminy. Two full-tosses were clubbed over the leg side for six and a third delivery was dispatched over the sightscreen. Duminy's over cost 21 runs and he dropped a return chance off the last ball.
In that over, the required run-rate plummeted to a manageable 7.71 from a worrying 9.31 and Pietersen had all but done the job. He went on punish Mishra again, taught Veer not to bowl short and wide by smashing him for six and launch Daniel Christian over long-off.
With eight to get off the last two overs and Pietersen on 95, Yogesh Nagar, who played a good supporting role, blocked the last ball to give Pietersen a chance to bring up three-figures. Ankit bowled the first ball of the 20th over and Pietersen hit him over his head to win the match and complete his century, leaving Chargers in no doubt that they were at least 15 short.
Chargers' innings was built on one impressive stand, 71 runs in 6.5 overs, between Shikhar Dhawan and Parthiv Patel. But, none of the other batsmen built on their start and they stuttered after the pair was dismissed. Nadeem had Dhawan trapped lbw when he tried the reverse-sweep and Parthiv caught at deep square leg after he pulled one too many.
Nadeem took three wickets in three overs and was responsible for dragging Chargers' run-rate back. He also had Duminy caught at mid-on before he had been able to get stuck in. Although Nadeem did not take a wicket in his fourth over, he completed the catch that dismissed Christian the ball after Nadeem's spell ended. By then, Chargers' run-rate had been pulled back from 9 runs to the over, to 7.8.
Enough pressure was put on the lower order for them to perish as they tried to accelerate. Abhishek Jhunjhunwala edged behind as he tried to clear Morkel over long-off and Steyn failed to hit a short ball over Sehwag at cover. Bharat Chipli was able to take advantage of Agarkar's width to hit him for a six and two fours in this third over and steer Chargers over the 150 mark, but it wasn't enough.